Last year’s ruling by the Supreme Court that employment tribunal fees were unlawful has had a huge impact on organisations and their HR teams in the UK. Without the barrier of Tribunal fees, most HR teams have experienced a significant rise in cases going to tribunal stage.
Working with a number of HR and ER teams, we can now share the key actions that have worked to stem the tide of tribunal cases.
Here are four ways:
Unlimited, commercial help: day-to-day operational support from practising lawyers
The increased workload puts a significant strain on already pushed resources. The one thing you want you and your team to feel in these situations is that you’re covered for any and all the advices you need to overcome issues, particularly from your legal firm.
The challenge is, of course, budget. Most traditional law firms are simply not set up to provide daily operational advice to HR teams who need the support during times like this.
In an ideal world, your HR or ER team would have unlimited access to practising employment lawyers who are ready to help at the end of the phone, via email or online chat. And that’s not all. With the pace of issues hitting your desk, you would benefit most from commercial advice tailored to your business and available within hours rather than days.
Fortunately new legal business models deliver exactly this level of service and support for HR teams. For example, at esphr, our customers have dedicated employment lawyer support available with a one hour service window – because that’s what they need. Best of all, unlimited advice is available at a fixed price, so there’s no clock watching or concern over huge legal bills.
This model is only possible because of the introduction of the Legal Services Act. Discover how some HR leaders are able to increase capacity, slash legal spend and make a real commercial difference to their organisation in our post, How HR Leaders Can Leverage The Legal Services Act To Their Advantage here.
Employment law upgrade: developing the team’s legal knowledge
Your team’s ability to deal with the increased caseloads brought about by the lifting of tribunal fees comes down to their skills, expertise and experience in HR issues. However, these skills can be vastly enhanced through greater experience and knowledge of employment law. This doesn’t mean from studying it in an academic sense, but gaining invaluable experience from working alongside employment lawyers.
Only a few law firms offer HR teams the opportunity to work closely with their lawyers, as the model of traditional law firms puts the cost of this priviledge on the customer (i.e. you). As mentioned above, day-to-day access to a dedicated lawyer who understands your business inside and out and can also help you interpret employment law to apply to your organisation’s specific issues, is highly valuable.
One positive side-effect many of our customers have found is enhanced professional development opportunities for their team. It was both educational and empowering for the team to have sustained exposure to legal expertise and experience – without anyone worrying about the cost.
Discover how working better alongside employment lawyers on a day-by-day basis can revolutionise your team’s approach in our post, Time To Get Closer To Your Employment Lawyer? here.
Going to the source: upskilling line managers
The source of many employee relations issues is the relationship between the employee and line manager. It is common sense that the more you can help line managers deal with issues correctly and appropriately in the first instance, the less opportunities emerge for situations to develop into serious ER issues.
Finding ways to quickly and effectively upskill line managers on HR best practice, empowers those on the front line to deal with and manage situations before they ever need to be escalated to the team.
Upskilling line managers on the most up-to-date guidance and best practice not only protects the organisation when cases do go to tribunal, but helps to avoid tribunals altogether by encouraging best practice. It also has the positive effect of reducing enquiries and the caseload of ER teams generally.
Discover how upskilling managers is just one of the ways to make your team more effective in our blog post, HR Flash Point: An Employee Doesn’t Leave Your Company They Leave Their Manager here.
Keeping cases under control: effective case management tracking
When cases go to tribunal, there is an impact on how you allocate resources and how you manage productivity. It’s more effective having specialist ER team members dealing with the issues, rather than having business leaders and managers wrapped up in the inevitable admin a tribunal attracts. For many organisations this still means pulling together spreadsheets, notes and trying to piece together a trail of advice around each case.
ER teams who have invested the time and budget into implementing an online case management tracking system, benefit from removing this inefficiency so their team can work on actually dealing with (and preventing future) employee relations issues.
There is great power in being able to instantly gain an accurate, real-time overview of the whole organisation in terms of its ER.
I am the Founder of ESP Group, a very different employment law firm and HR consultancy business, with our own in-house legal and HR experts. The vision for our business was to deliver an exceptionally personal, yet cost-effective service that truly meets the evolving needs of modern and forward thinking HR teams and their organisations. We’ve recruited some of the very best employment lawyers to make this vision a reality.
I have over 30 years' experience in designing and building specialist service-based businesses and products for the corporate market. At the same time as developing our own fast-growing consultancy business, one of my key roles is to ensure we help busy Human Resources professionals make a real commercial difference to their organisations.
Ours is a notoriously fragmented industry, renowned for being somewhat archaic in its approach to providing customer-focussed, innovative, straight-talking and affordable services. But the legal services market landscape is changing and we truly believe that our integrated ABS law firm and HR consultancy business is at the forefront of this movement.