Online database for employment tribunal judgments confirmed

28 November 2016

Pinsent Masons discusses the wider implications for employers.

Back in July HM Courts & Tribunal Service announced that new employment tribunal decisions will be made publicly available online once they had the technology ready. It has just been confirmed that this will be happening from late 2016 or early 2017.

The database will allow the public to search for first-instance judgments from England, Wales and Scotland using drop-down menus and a free-text search. Currently, anyone wanting to search or browse employment tribunal decisions must attend in person at offices in Bury St Edmunds for English and Welsh decisions, and in Glasgow for Scottish decisions. Copies of specific decisions can be ordered by mail for a fee.

This development will speed up the process of accessing tribunal decisions but there are wider implications, especially for employers. Andrew Kane, Senior Paralegal at Pinsent Masons comments:

“…reputational risk - people will be able to look up this database much in the way of a Google search and be able to see what types of claims are being brought. They will also be able to see much more detail than they previously have done about the allegations that are being made some of which may of course be in their own right embarrassing to the company irrespective of the outcome.

There may be comments made about the credibility of certain key people within the organisation who might have given evidence to the tribunal.

There is…a potential that claimants who are going to bring claims against the company, and claimants' representatives, will go to the database and look up to see what types of claims have been brought in the past and then use that to try and build up a picture that this is a company where there exists a culture of "x", so they are going to try and use that essentially as evidence to support their own case.

There will be issues around companies' recruitment. So, individuals who may be considering coming on board, or the graduate recruitment level, if you have got people doing that sort of research into a company and seeing types of claims being brought, or maybe a particularly high volume of claims being brought, it may cause people to think twice and it may damage a company's ability to recruit effectively in the way that they would like.

There is also, from the point of view of HR professionals, we have seen more and more of a culture of people moving towards doing a bit of due diligence on prospective job applicants, maybe looking at their social media profiles, Twitter, Facebook, whatever, there may be a tendency, temptation, for the HR professionals to maybe go online and see whether this individual might have brought a claim before and if you do that, and if you find this person has sued a previous employer for discrimination and if you make a decision not to employ them on that basis then you will be committing an act of victimisation for which they will then be able to bring a claim against your business.”