Washing your dirty linen in public?
Until now only the verdicts from Employment Appeal Tribunals and higher courts have been published online, but that is set to change this year. Currently if employers have been involved in tribunal cases that have not been appealed, these are unlikely to have been publicised widely because judgments are only available by request or in person from HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS). However from a yet-to-be-stated date in early 2017 this will change and any member of the public will be able to search online for new tribunal judgments, by company name or by topic.
There have been concerns expressed by some lawyers that this will impact on the tribunal system. It may result in more settlements being reached as employers consider the potential for reputational damage and there is also a danger that employers may ‘blacklist’ previous litigants.
The new regime has been broadly welcomed in the interests of increasing transparency and highlighting malpractice by the senior president of tribunals who has said the online access is part of the principle of “open justice”.
It is possible that as more online verdicts are published, it might give potential claimants the opportunity to spot patterns of previous claims, which could result in increased numbers of litigants. At the same time employers might search the tribunal database as part of the recruitment process, raising fears of unofficial “blacklists” of previous litigants.
It will give employers more factors to consider when considering whether to settle or appear at a Tribunal to fight a claim. But it does mean that they may err on the side of caution, particularly where matters are finely balanced, even if it means that an undeserving employee may receive a payment that they wouldn’t get if the matter went to Tribunal.
If you have any concerns about this development or want to discuss a current employment issue, please get in touch.
Posted on 05 Jan 2017