Retailers unaware of new employment tribunal rules
One in 10 retailers is unaware of the existence of the new early conciliation service for anyone considering an employment tribunal claim, according to new research by law firm Bond Dickinson and the British Retail Consortium. This is despite the service provided by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas), which was launched on 6 April this year, becoming compulsory on Tuesday 6 May.
The study also reveals that 10% of retailers are unaware that they could now face financial penalties of up to £5,000 for losing employment tribunal cases, another change in the law that came into effect on 6 April.
The findings, from the BRC-Bond Dickinson Retail Employment Monitor Q1 2014, are comprised of responses from retailers accounting for a third (33%) of the retail sector by turnover and employing 797,000 people.
Yet despite one in 10 retailers still being unaware of the Acas service and another 10% saying they could do with more information on it, the reception from those who are aware of it has been cautiously optimistic. 38% of retailers feel the service would have a positive effect on their business, though the remaining six in 10 (63%) believe it would have a neutral or negligible effect.
From 6 May it will be compulsory for most claimants to notify Acas before making an employment tribunal claim, at which point Acas will contact the employer and employee to try to secure agreement without recourse to a tribunal. The service is aimed at reducing the time and cost of employment tribunals.
Since 6 April employers can also be fined up to £5,000 if they lose an employment tribunal to an employee or former employee, on top of being liable for any compensation due to the individual.
The Acas service is the latest measure designed to reduce the number of employment tribunals. At the end of July 2013, fees of up to £250 were introduced for anyone wishing to bring an employment tribunal claim, which has resulted in a significant drop in the number of new claims. In the last quarter of 2013, 9,801 claims were lodged, compared to an average of 50,000 new claims per quarter in 2012/13. This is a 79% decrease compared with the last quarter of 20122.
Christina Tolvas-Vincent, head of retail employment at business law firm Bond Dickinson, commented: “Any measure that results in a reduced number of claims going to employment tribunal is good news for retailers. The service has received a cautious thumbs up from the industry, but it is concerning that some are still unaware of its existence and the new possibility of fines for losing employment tribunals. Retailers need to ensure they stay abreast of the latest changes in employment law, which is changing all the time and can have a measurable impact on their operations.”
Bond Dickinson LLP is a leading, full service business law firm. The Bond Dickinson retail sector group is ranked among the elite in the retail sector and acts for more national retailers than any other law firm in the UK.