Keep it civilised – if you can

Some employment disputes just are about really bad behaviour. If you’ve suffered sexual harassment, or racist or homophobic abuse, for example, there’s no pleasant way of saying it. The chances are your employer will deny it, and you’ll end up in the sort of hearing where feelings run high, and serious and discreditable allegations – including allegations of lying to the tribunal – are made on both sides.

But lots of disputes are altogether less personal. Suppose your employer has closed down your workplace and offered you alternative work 30 minutes further from your home. You’ve refused the alternative work, and claimed redundancy. They have said you’re not entitled to redundancy pay, because you’ve refused an offer of suitable alternative employment.

If you’re right, you get your redundancy pay; if your employer’s right you don’t. Obviously you’d like to have the money, and they’d prefer not to give it to you. Obviously you’ll both do your best to win the dispute. But no-one’s really behaving badly here, are they? It’s just both sides legitimately seeking to further their own interests.

A dispute like this ought to be able to be conducted from start to finish in a calm and polite manner, without either side causing the other any particular offence.

If most of your dispute is of this nature, but one aspect of it involves allegations of really bad behaviour, do think carefully about whether you really need to run the ‘nasty’ part. It will raise the temperature of proceedings a great deal, and make the whole case harder and more stressful to fight – and much harder to settle. So run it if you think it has a strong prospect of success and it is going to make a significant difference to how much compensation you can claim. If it doesn’t tick both those boxes, ditch it.

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