New tribunal judgments website may put employers at risk

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A new online database launched by the Ministry of Justice could leave both employers and employees exposed.

The website enables the public to search for employment tribunal decisions from England, Wales and Scotland. All future tribunal judgments will be made available on the website and a selection of decisions from 2015, 2016 and 2017 is already available.

While the website’s introduction is a big step forward in terms of freedom of information, it carries some potential drawbacks.

Employers may now be tempted to search the database to see if a job candidate has been involved in litigation, but they should take specialist legal advice before doing so. Depending on the type of litigation the job candidate has been involved in, the prospective employer could be leaving themselves open to a claim for discrimination, victimisation or whistle-blowing if they decline to take the job candidate’s application forward on the basis of what they find.

In addition, there are risks related to the information the database might hold about an employer. Employment tribunal judgments often contain detailed facts on a case, and may reveal information about the business and its working practices. If an employer loses the tribunal, the judgment may criticise the business. Job applicants may search the database for information on a prospective employer, and current employees may check it for details of successful claims, which may lead them to bring a claim of their own against their employer. Journalists may also trawl the judgments for stories that create negative publicity for the businesses involved.

With the data also likely to be found through search engines such as Google, the risks to employers should not be overlooked. Until now, anyone wishing to search for employment tribunal decisions had to do so in person at offices in Bury St Edmunds (for England and Wales) or Glasgow (for Scottish decisions).

The negative implications of the database could mean that more employers seek confidential settlements of claims, either through ACAS or by means of a statutory settlement agreement, rather than have their case details appear online.

Expert employment solicitors in Eastbourne, Hailsham, Bexhill and Hastings

For expert advice on the implications of the new database or any employment law matter, please contact Employment Law Services Partner Paul Maynard at or 01323 435900.

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