The Confederation of British Industry has issued a package of measures for reforming the employment tribunal system in a bid to curb the developing 'compensation culture.'

Latest figures from the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), reveal it received 164,525 individual complaints between April 1999 and March 2000, relating to alleged unfair employment practices – a jump of 32% on the previous year.

The CBI's aim is to offset the rising number of unjustified legal claims against employers while still offering justice to employees.

Exacerbating the problem is the extension of no-win, no-fee legal representation, significant increases in possible compensation to £50,000, and a raft of new employment rights such as the Working Time Directive.

ACAS spokesman, Adrian Wakeling, said: "Society is becoming more litigious as people gain a greater awareness of their rights under employment law."

Wakeling stressed that despite the record number of claims referred to ACAS, only 25% actually reach an employment tribunal. The majority of claims are settled following conciliation by ACAS officials or are instead withdrawn by claimants.

Cases range from sexual discrimination, stress and bullying to unfair dismissal and breach of contract.

Council worker Randy Ingram was one claimant to benefit; he won £203,000 for the high levels of stress he suffered from running a gypsy site.

The CBI's recommendations include:

  • promoting the forthcoming ACAS Alternative Dispute Resolution Scheme.
  • improving application forms so complaints are clearly set out at an early stage.
  • staging pre-hearings on weak claims to decide whether they should go to tribunal.
  • using powers more often to award costs against applicants who push claims with no chance of success.
  • awarding costs against people who hinder the process, such as those who do not turn up to hearings.
  • granting automatically the postponement of cases where both parties request it.

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