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Small organisations can face big disruption from employment tribunals

No employer wants to be taken to an employment tribunal, but for small organisations the burden can be particularly heavy.

Bigger organisations often have dedicated people whose roles include dealing with disciplinary and grievance procedures and tribunal claims. Part of the function of HR and legal departments is to shield the rest of the organisation from the potential disruption caused by tribunals and related procedures.

Small businesses rarely have such resources. It's quite common for the fallout from a claim to be felt throughout the company structure. For micro businesses, dealing with an employment tribunal could take up a considerable amount of a director or owner's time.

The impact felt can therefore be inversely proportional to the size of the organisation, with the smallest being hit the hardest.

The latest figures show a 15 per cent drop in the number of claims accepted by employment tribunals. The number of single claims accepted, however, only went down by 2 per cent. Single claims are those brought by an individual (as opposed to a group) against an employer, and are the type of claim that small organisations are most likely to face. Put together with the 6 per cent drop in disposals for single claims, there was actually a net rise of 4 per cent overall.

Without a breakdown of the figures by size of organisation, it's impossible to say exactly how small and micro businesses are being affected. But it's fair to assume that the situation may not be as encouraging as the headline rate suggests.

Small businesses are more likely to avoid tribunals by developing robust, transparent and fair discipline and grievance procedures. Acas has written the Discipline and grievance - Acas Code of Practice, which sets out basic practical guidance and principles for handling such issues in the workplace. Employment tribunals take the Code into account when considering a claim and can adjust awards either way if they feel an employer or employee has failed to comply with it.

Acas also offers training in how to manage Discipline and grievance as well as mock employment tribunal sessions (listed on the Dispute resolution page).

Visit the Acas Training and Business Solutions area for more information.

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