Employers are more likely than ever to be faced with defending legal claims from disgruntled staff, a Hampshire business seminar has heard.

Hosted by Southampton-based DC Employment Solicitors, the breakfast briefing came as the Ministry of Justice reported a dramatic 90% increase in the number of employment tribunal claims since fees were abolished in July 2017.

Such has been the uplift in cases and its impact on the tribunal system nationally, the government has had to launch a recruitment drive for more judges and hinted that fees may be reintroduced at some point in the future.

“In the meantime, employers should continue to do everything they can to avoid the risk of claims,” Darren Tibble, Partner at DC Employment, told the audience. “Of course, employees who have legitimate claims should have assistance to bring a tribunal case, but much stress and cost can be avoided if appropriate workplace procedures are followed, so that disputes and grievances can be reduced and cases resolved before it gets to the tribunal stage.”

“Dealing with an underperforming employee can be fraught with difficulties for an employer. Companies and organisations need to ensure that proper processes are followed as soon as the issue comes to light, and then thoroughly documented, so both parties are aware of the next steps when disciplining an employee for poor performance. By doing so, the risk of employment tribunal claims will be greatly reduced and, if brought, far easier to settle or defend.”

Nearly 100 guests accepted the invitation to the DC Employment autumn seminar, held in the Hilton Hotel at the home of Hampshire cricket, the Ageas Bowl.

As well as Darren, two of the firm’s other solicitors, Caroline Oliver and Claire Helling, gave presentations on practical aspects of performance management, including the effective use of employee appraisals, performance improvement plans and probationary periods before the prospect of dismissal arises.

Attendees at the event came from across the South, with most being HR professionals or other senior managers responsible for employment matters.

Among the sectors represented were local government, professional services, construction, manufacturing, aerospace engineering, transport, software, commercial property, automotive and charities.

The seminar came amid launch activity for DC Employment’s new Enhanced fixed-fee service, offering individually tailored packages of business advice and support on a retained basis.

It was also the first seminar by DC Employment Solicitors since the firm’s autumn promotion to the ‘premier league’ of employment lawyers in the legal industry’s annual global guide to service quality.

Already a ‘Leading Firm’ in the Legal 500, the firm has seen three successive year-on-year rises in the guide’s rankings and has now reached the very top – Tier 1.