Scottish business owner hits out at employment tribunals

The employment tribunal system has come under criticism from an Angus business owner who has accused the claims process of operating like “borderline blackmail”.

Bill Bowles has raised concerns about the financial and emotional impact of the tribunal process on small business owners. Picture: Contributed
Bill Bowles has raised concerns about the financial and emotional impact of the tribunal process on small business owners. Picture: Contributed

Bill Bowles, who runs Perfect Cleaning in Carnoustie and was last year taken to tribunal by a former employee, has raised concerns about the financial and emotional impact of the process on small business owners.

Bowles claims the burden of proof for a case to reach the court is too low as “there is no need for the claimant to prove anything at the outset”.

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The case against Bowles was dismissed and the claimant, via an insurance firm, was ordered to compensate his legal fees.

He also hit out at the role of “no win, no fee” solicitors, which can take on cases risk-free if the claimant’s insurance covers legal costs.

Bowles said: “For [solicitors] to be the ones who decide the veracity of the case and the ones to profit from it, whether it wins or not, seems to me to be corrupt.”

He added: “SMEs are extremely worried. Litigation is becoming the default position for disgruntled employees and as long as there are unscrupulous practicing lawyers willing to take cases on without evidence of wrongdoing and making cases simply from allegations the system is not going to improve.

“It’s borderline blackmail. Either you pay up or spend a lot of time and money defending something that should never have come about at all.”

A source for the Law Society Scotland said: “Employment tribunals are a crucial means of ensuring fairness in the workplace and the Supreme Court recently highlighted the important role they play in providing access to justice.”