Thomson Snell & Passmore’s employment team were instructed by an existing client of the firm to represent it in defending an employment tribunal claim brought by an ex-employee.
The client is the UK subsidiary of a global car manufacturer and is responsible for importing and distributing the manufacturer’s cars and repair parts in the UK (the Company).
Following a review of its workforce, the Company considered that the claimant’s role was potentially redundant as the claimant was not being fully utilised. The Company entered into a thorough consultation with the claimant and concluded that the claimant’s role was redundant. The claimant appealed against her redundancy and this was heard by the Company’s managing director, who dismissed the appeal.
After the termination of her employment the claimant issued an employment tribunal claim for unfair dismissal, sex discrimination and less favourable treatment on the grounds of her part time status. The Company believed that the claimant was encouraged to bring a claim as in the past a number of her colleagues in her department had made employment tribunal claims after leaving. The Company had responded to those previous claims by settling early on rather than defending them, due to concerns about the management time and legal cost in defending the claims.
The Company wanted to put an end to any expectation that employees who left could bring an employment tribunal claim that would be met with an attractive offer to settle. It instructed Thomson Snell & Passmore to prepare a robust defence and defend the claim. We followed this up by successfully applying for a case management discussion to require the claimant to detail her vaguely pleaded claims before a judge.
As the employment tribunal hearing date approached we advised the Company to offer a nominal amount to settle the claim to test the claimant’s resolve, which the claimant duly accepted. The Company considered that, despite settling the claim, its robust stance in defending the claim and the minimal amount it paid demonstrated to any potential future claimant that it would take stand against claimants who bring employment tribunal claims with little merit.
We are delighted to have helped the Company bring about a change in perception of the Company’s resilience in dealing with employment tribunal litigation. In our experience claimants who submit poorly pleaded employment tribunal claims against their former employers often do so without properly considering the merits of the claim or what is involved, hoping that the employer will try and pay them off at an early stage.
Employers who take a robust stance are likely to find that as time passes claimants are more likely to accept a minimal sum to settle their claim, or in some cases withdraw it altogether, rather than have to prepare a detailed witness statement and be subject to cross examination at a tribunal hearing. The effect of this is that employees who leave in the future are less likely to view bringing an employment tribunal claim as a way of extracting money from their former employer.