January 19, 2017
Few businesses are ready for a major change in the reporting of employment tribunal verdicts when members of the public will be able to search online for tribunal judgments.
At present, judgments are only available by request or in person from HM Courts and Tribunals Service. It is anticipated only new verdicts will be published. The service will be free to users.
The new regime will increase transparency and highlighting malpractice. The senior president of tribunals has said the online access is part of the principle of “open justice”.
However, employers should be wary of the risk of reputational damage from verdicts being made available. There are no real advantages to employers – as there is little public interest when they win.
Over time, online judgments might give potential claimants the confidence to start proceedings should they spot patterns of previous litigation. Some employers might be tempted to search the tribunal database as part of the recruitment process, raising fears of unofficial “blacklisting” of previous litigants.
Claimants might feel rewarded when they see their day in court publicised, and the risk of publicity may encourage some employers to settle where cases are finely balanced.
Generally, employers shouldn’t be at the tribunal if they think they are going to lose. Nearly all hearings are public - so dirty washing has always been visible to a degree. This just makes it easier for more people to find information if they have the time to trawl through.