Employers to face tribunals as staff shortages add to stress

More social care employers are likely to face employment tribunals
in future, a legal expert has warned, writes Derren
. This follows the news that one in four
employers are now summoned to tribunals by former staff, according
to a survey by journal IRS Employment Review last

A 2004 ruling is behind the expected shift, says Chris
Webb-Jenkins, a partner at solicitor Browne Jacobson. A teacher’s
claim for excessive workplace stress was upheld because his council
refused to employ temporary workers to cover staff shortages.
Social services departments could now be prosecuted for failing to
sort out staff shortages.

“They gave him increased duties because they couldn’t afford relief
teachers. This is a real problem for local authorities because they
have statutory duties to fulfil but the funding doesn’t always
match up,” says Webb-Jenkins.

Such situations are unlikely to be confined to the teaching

Webb-Jenkins is also concerned that the introduction of a database
including allegations made against professionals working with
children, as recommended by Sir Michael Bichard, could create the
potential for confrontation between employers and employees.

He says this could increase stress levels and see more careers
ended resulting in more tribunal cases for unfair treatment and
lack of employer support.

This is reinforced by Department for Education and Skills research
which showed in 2003-4 more than a quarter of school staff facing
allegations of abuse failed to return to work.

Public sector union Unison dealt with 302 employment tribunals in
2004 across the public sector.

Research by the Local Government Association has found that 7.6 per
cent of tribunal applications are against councils. From those
heard, 80 per cent were dismissed.

In 2002 the Appeal Court ruled there are no inherently stressful
jobs and that employers didn’t need to make any special legal
provision for this.

But now both the teacher’s ruling and the Bichard database could
bring more cases to tribunal on different grounds.

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