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Employment Tribunal Judgments to Be Published Online

Last week, in and amongst the raft of Brexit and football news, some employers may have missed a potentially important piece of employment law news.  It has been announced that from autumn 2016, new Employment Tribunal judgments will be published online.  Whilst this news may have failed to grab headlines, here I take a look at what this means in reality.

Anyone can access it

If you’re an employer who has the misfortune of being taken to an Employment Tribunal, the judgment in your case will be placed online for all to see.   There will be a database which the public can access and search from the comfort of their own homes.  Currently, anyone wishing to browse judgments has to attend the tribunal offices in Bury St Edmunds.  It is not yet clear whether historical judgments will be placed online.

The good?

The intention behind the decision is continue promoting access to justice.  It is hoped the move will be of benefit to all parties engaging in Employment Tribunal litigation.  Whilst decisions are not binding on subsequent cases, they can help parties consider what decision was reached in a similar case.  This may be useful for the purpose of settlement discussions.

Unrepresented parties may also benefit greatly.  Either side will be able to access the database to establish how the Employment Tribunal addresses key issues.  This could help them present their case more clearly. There is however concern that some parties may do themselves a disservice by using it as a substitute for legal advice.

The bad?

We already have some employers using social media to search for information about interview candidates to see what they are really like before making a job offer.  Without a doubt, I expect some employers will utilise the new online system to search to see if their potential new recruit, or even a current employee, has ever taken their former employer to a tribunal.  This will not however account for claims which have been settled and did not reach a final hearing.  This could open employers up to claims of victimisation where they treat a candidate less favourably as a result of a previous claim.  In fact, some employees may be deterred from pursuing a claim if they feel this could hinder future employability. 

Likewise, employees could use the system to find out how many times their employer has been taken to a tribunal.  Judgments can be lengthy and employers who lose claims may find their employees become privy to information about the company, or indeed particular managers, as a result of the judgments.

The ugly?

The system could also result in employers, of any size, finding themselves on the pages of a national or local newspaper.  Where the outcome was not favourable for the employer, bad publicity could follow. Whilst Employment Tribunal hearings are public, the reality is very few attract any sort of publicity whatsoever.  With judgments appearing online, it certainly presents easy fodder for journalists. 

As a niche employment law firm, we are experts in helping employers defend claims.  If you require advice or have any queries, please contact me on 0113 350 4030 or at hello@scesolicitors.co.uk.

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SCE Solicitors is a boutique employment law and dispute resolution practice based in Leeds which advises clients nationwide.  Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here.

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