Major changes to rules governing employment tribunals and conciliation are leaving workers at risk of losing out.
The alert has come from employment law specialist Lisa Kemp, who says workers are in danger of not getting the pay-off they are entitled to through the new mandatory conciliation rules.
Changes in the law, which came into force last May, require employees and employers to go through Early Conciliation to attempt to settle their disputes before going to an Employment Tribunal.
Although the rule means employees can avoid costly tribunal fees, Ms Kemp says the danger is they could agree to settle without understanding the true merits and value of their claim.
Miss Kemp, an assistant solicitor within the employment team at law firm mfg Solicitors, said: “Since May, the majority of Employment Tribunal claims cannot be pursued unless Early Conciliation has been tried. Employees wishing to make a claim against their employer have to approach ACAS first, complete the new documentation correctly and participate in conciliation if both parties are willing.
“The risk they run is if they are not being legally represented. Although it is not mandatory to have representation, there is a danger they may not understand the true value of their claims and lose out.
“If an employee here in the West Midlands is not armed with this knowledge, they could walk into a legal minefield and lose out on what they are truly entitled to. It makes it extremely difficult to negotiate without knowing what the claim is worth and what terms should be included in the formal agreement. That’s why people should consider legal advice.”
Miss Kemp, who acts on behalf of many workers in the region, said that a costly tribunal should be the last resort.
She added: “Early Conciliation has great potential to cut costs on both sides and make it far more likely to come to a quicker compromise. It also allows both parties to go on with their lives and business. Conciliation can take a month and be extended by 14 days if necessary with the parties’ consent. A tribunal can drag on for months, so conciliation certainly has its advantages.
“It’s meant to offer a level playing field. Employers are bound to have proper, expert legal advice. Employees need it too. Otherwise a tool designed to make negotiation fair for all is anything but.”
Lisa Kemp is offering a free 15 minute initial telephone consultation with employees who may be looking to claim against their employers. To contact her readers can firstname.lastname@example.org