How Tribunal Users Really feel...

The DTI's excellent research unit has published "The experience of claimants in race discrimination cases". At 213 pages it is not the most convenient document to read so I've distilled some of the more interesting findings:

"Most claimants did not inform their employer they would be applying for a Tribunal." This is worrying given the 2004 Rules make employees complain internally first (or "grieve" as some lawyers are rather horrendously calling it).

"At the outset, claimants were confident they could win their case, being convinced that they were in the right." Well that's not an enormous shock really is it!

"Representatives were often involved in cases that were withdrawn or settled prior to a main Employment Tribunal hearing." This may well be because some realism was introduced into the proceedings.

"Although claimants had not been motivated by money they rarely felt that the sums they were awarded were sufficient compensation for what they had been through." As one of my bosses once said " its not the principle - it's the money"....

"On the whole, claimants did not feel adequately prepared for the Tribunal hearing, and did not know what to expect."

"Claimants felt that the Chair, and whether or not they were sympathetic towards the claimant was central to the way they experienced the hearing."

"Claimants felt that the balance of power rested with the respondents as they had more experienced legal teams, more financial resources and a greater number of witnesses."

"Claimants who were unsuccessful at Tribunal attributed this to factors including bias in the panel, lack of witnesses, insufficient evidence, having to represent themselves, or the inexperience or incompetence of their representatives." Rather than say the fact that they had no legal claim or gave hopelessly confused evidence.

"Successful claimants were not always satisfied with their case outcome. This was either because they felt they had not been awarded enough money or because of a perceived lack of formal cautions or punishments directed at employer-respondents."

"Most claimants reported that the case had a negative impact, they had found it very stressful, and many said that it had worsened their physical health and emotional well-being."

"Claimants who represented themselves often experienced some of the worst effects on their health during their cases."

"Claimants felt that the process of taking an Employment Tribunal case was not ‘user friendly’ enough, that it should be less formal and less reliant on legal terms and knowledge. They felt that securing good representation and providing evidence were very important." As indeed they are in all cases.

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