The Ministry of Justice has launched its website of employment tribunal decisions, https://www.gov.uk/employment-tribunal-decisions meaning that the decisions in employment tribunal cases will now be available online.

Currently, paper copies of England and Wales judgments are held at Bury St Edmunds and judgments from Scotland are stored separately in Glasgow.

We believe there are about 100 decisions from 2016 already loaded up to the site, and you can search by name, date, Judge or jurisdiction code.

This is a step forward for putting important information in the public domain.

What does this mean?

Tribunal decisions will now be more readily available, which could mean that both employers and employees risk facing negative publicity from unfavourable employment tribunal judgments.

For employees, this new online system perhaps makes it easy for employers to search to see if someone they are thinking about recruiting has taken a previous employer to the tribunal.

For employers, the risk being that judgments will be available to be searched by employees and third parties such as customers and suppliers. This in turn could have a negative impact not only in the workplace but also in a commercial setting if the judgments are unfavourable.

Often when tribunal claims are brought against an employer and in particular, if settlement is being considered, one of the main benefits to an employer is that if settlement is reached before a tribunal hearing, there will be little or no information about the dispute in the public domain.

It is not generally in claimants’ interest to publicise their case before a tribunal reaches a decision. Settling a tribunal claim before a hearing gives an employer the opportunity to impose obligations of confidentially that cover not only the terms of the settlement but also the allegations made and the circumstances surrounding the dispute. In addition, the claimant can be asked to agree not to make derogatory statements about the employer and its employees.

Of course, the other side to this is confidentiality obligations may not be kept and there is a risk that claims without merit will be encouraged if a business is too quick to settle.

When tribunal proceedings are threatened, it is important to consider the legal merits of the claim as well as the cost and time involved in defending it. However, employers should also consider what adverse publicity could result from a public hearing or an adverse judgment, and how a settlement might be viewed by third parties. Employers will be best placed to formulate a strategy when all of these factors are weighed into the mix, particularly in light of this new online service.

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