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All employment tribunal decisions now available online – what employers should know

The Government's new online database of employment tribunal decisions, designed to make justice more transparent, is now live and available for the public to access and search.

The database includes all first instance employment tribunal decisions handed down in England, Scotland and Wales and the new website allows visitors to search by name, date, judge, jurisdiction code or other criteria like a specific type of claim, for example unfair dismissal.

In the past, anyone wanting to see tribunal judgements had to either buy a judgement by mail order or visit an office in Bury St Edmunds or Glasgow.

Whilst the placing of judgements in the public domain certainly improves freedom of information and increases access to justice, there are, however, some potential drawbacks for employers.

Implications for employers

For instance, the database includes judgements which carry large amounts of detail about a business and its working practices, available to anyone and everyone. What's more, when am employer has lost a tribunal, it's common for the judgement to be highly critical.

This not only enables job seekers to make a decision about whether to apply for a role based on an employer's tribunal history but also potentially, opens up an employer to journalists searching the database for an employment law story.

The prospect of the reputational risk for certain employers, may mean some think again about whether to proceed with a claim.

Another possible consequence is that a current employee can search their employer's tribunal history using the database, possibly leading to new claims.

On the flip side, employers may now be tempted to use the database to see if a job candidate has been involved in litigation, but this is a potentially problematic area too.

Depending on the type of litigation the job candidate may have been involved in, the prospective employer could be leaving itself open to a claim for discrimination, victimisation or whistle-blowing if it declines to take the job candidate's application forward on the basis of what it finds.

What to do now

As ever, it is vital for employers to make sure their employment practices are watertight and apply the correct rights to staff to make sure there is no prospect of a tribunal.

For more information and legal advice for all types of business - from start-ups to established companies including employee issues - please contact Wards Solicitors' commercial services specialists, Bridget Juckes and Joanne Turner. For contentious issues, please contact Wards Solicitors' employment disputes specialist, James Taylor.