The hollow feeling after victory
Attending an Employment Tribunal hearing is a day full of emotion. Both parties have spent months preparing, and then the day finally arrives when a judge will settle the dispute once and for all. It’s also the day that if you are the Respondent (employer), you’re likely to see the claimant (usually ex-employee) in person for the first time since they left the business some 9 months earlier.
Sat in the Respondent’s waiting room before the hearing starts, I often find there are a full range of emotions on show. You have the witness who is sat back on their chair, legs stretched out, arms crossed, looking all confident, relaxed, almost defiant, and can’t understand all the fuss. You have the witness who is quiet, hunched over, clearly very nervous and well out of their comfort zone. Then you have the one who is collected, well prepared and super focused.
The team at Howarths have acted on a lot of employment tribunal claims on behalf of employers, many times representing in court. The vast majority of them we have been successful (of course any honest practitioner will tell you that you can’t win them all). One thing I have noticed is often how hollow an Employment Tribunal win can feel to an employer. When the judgment is announced and it is in your favour, you might expect everyone to jump up, hollering at each other and high fiving, before hitting the local bars outside the courthouse in celebration. Often, it’s nothing like that; rather, it’s a sense of relief and a puffing out of the cheeks whilst thinking ‘thank god that’s over, can we get back to work now?’.
9 times out of 10, an employer doesn’t recover their legal costs in defending a claim. I think this contributes to the hollow feeling after victory; 9 months of stress, distraction and management time lost in defending the claim, several days in court and out of the business, and even if you win, it’s cost you best part of £10k for the privilege.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes making a point of principle is well worth it, but many times, taking a commercial view to get the case settled and out of the way, often feels (albeit reluctantly on occasion), the most pragmatic thing to do.
If you do ever end up facing an Employment Tribunal claim, Howarths are there to fight your corner. We’re very likely to successfully defend your business, and if you did feel like it, we’d join you for that drink afterwards.
Author: Gavin Howarth, Managing Director of Howarths