Scots firm says Sir Alan to blame for tribunal overload

Scottish law firm Muir Myles Laverty (MML) has blamed bosses copying the brash style used by Sir Alan Sugar on television programme The Apprentice for the rise in the caseload of employment tribunals.

The firm claims that Sugar’s catchphrase, “You’re fired”, in the show known as, “the job interview from hell” is being copied by bullying employers leading to thousands of employees resorting to legal action.

MML lashed out at the BBC hit series ahead of the Employment Tribunals Service publishing this year’s figures next month.

Current figures show that in 2004-05 there were 86,181 registered employment tribunal claims and more than 115,000 in 2006-07. It is understood that this year’s figures are expected to show around 132,000 cases.

MML employment partner John Muir believes Sugar sparked a wave of copycat bosses that have landed themselves facing legal action.

“Since The Apprentice came on TV, we’ve seen a massive rise in dismissals in which employers or bosses apparently emulate or copy Sir Alan Sugar’s methods,” said Muir. “There is no doubt about it. It has resulted in a series of unfair dismissal applications to employment tribunals.”

Not everybody agrees that the cause for the increase in tribunal applications is down to Sir Alan Sugar, however.

EEF, an industry body for more than 6,000 engineering and manufacturing employers, puts it down to, “parties becoming more familiar with the rules” and “pre-application procedures not having the desired effect of cutting down claim numbers”.

Peter Schofield, EEF’s director of employment and legal affairs, said the introduction of dispute resolution and new employment tribunal procedures in 2004 had not achieved the objective of promoting the resolution of employment disputes in the workplace.

“There is now an urgent need to take forward the recommendations of the Gibbons Review to ensure disputes can be resolved before making it to the starting grid of the legal process,” Schofield added.

On 7 December 2006, Alistair Darling (then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry) launched a root and branch review of Government support for resolving disputes in the workplace. He appointed Michael Gibbons, a member of the DTI’s Ministerial Challenge Panel and chair of the Hertfordshire Family Mediation Service, to review the options for simplifying and improving all aspects of employment dispute resolution.