Following an announcement by the Ministry of Justice in June last year, employment tribunal decisions for cases heard in England, Wales and Scotland are now publicly available online.
Previously, anyone wanting to search for an employment tribunal judgment had to visit the office in person either at Bury St Edmunds for cases heard in England and Wales; or Glasgow for cases heard in Scotland.
The website allows visitors to search for cases using either the name of the case or the jurisdiction under which it falls. These range from discrimination cases - such as age, gender, race, sexual orientation, disability and others - to blacklisting regulations to harassment cases, including cases involving trade unions and union rights.
Although Thompsons welcomes increasing transparency and access to first instance cases (as opposed to Employment Appeal Tribunal and Court of Appeal cases) it warns that the change has implications for the privacy of claimants as well as potential applicants for jobs. This is for the simple reason that a lot of currently inaccessible data will become publicly available as the Ministry of Justice gradually uploads all tribunal decisions to the new database.
For instance, sensitive information relating to sexual harassment and discrimination cases, which are directly attributed to the people they involve, are now publicly available simply by searching for their name on the database.
Although the courts anonymise case details when applying restriction reporting orders, these expire at the point of judgment (the reasoning for this is not yet clear). This has privacy implications for those who brought the claims, a point which has already been acknowledged by the courts.
There is also the issue of blacklisting. The new website gives employers the chance to search against the names of potential employees before deciding whether to hire them. So if they discover the person has made a claim against an employer in the past, they may decide not to give them the job.
Employers may decide not to employ somebody who has a trade union affiliation, which can also be known through the service. The database shows where a case was started, thereby allowing individuals to be identified.
Gerard Airey, of Thompsons Solicitors, commented “Increasing transparency is key to making the law more accessible, with the latest digitalisation programme a useful tool when used in a responsible and managed way.
However, some employers could misuse the service by seeking prospective employees’ sensitive personal data, such as trade union affiliation and claims history, in order to determine whether or not to hire them. In such cases, employees could be put in a tough position.”
To access the new website, go to: https://www.gov.uk/employment-tribunal-decisions