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Wash your hands before going to tribunal

View profile for Philip Richardson
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The employment tribunals are becoming more strict in relation to the evidence presented by parties, especially when they believe they are being either economical with the truth or indeed out right lying to the Tribunal in order to progress a claim. Whilst there was once an approach of ‘what have you got to lose..?’ mentality about bringing claims, what can start off as a small issue which may be deemed irrelevant can quickly unravel and have large implications. 

In the case of Yerrakalva v Barnsley MBC the Claimant stated that prior to the onset of her disability, she had had a very active life including frequenting the gym, playing badminton, running and playing tennis regularly, but that she could no longer do these activities. 

Later, Ms Yerrakalva stated that in fact she had not been such an active sportswoman and that she had put this information forward in order to assist in claiming benefits. The information was also included and relied upon in her employment tribunal claim. She also led the tribunal to believe that she was not pursuing a personal injury claim, which also transpired to be incorrect. It appeared to be a clear case of the claimant exaggerating her problems in order to demonstrate that she was disabled and therefore allow her to claim that she had been discriminated against on grounds of her disability.

The Judge in this case took a somewhat hard line and no nonsense approach as to what he deemed to be lying by the claimant, and awarded the full legal costs of the respondent against her, which surprisingly amounted to over £90,000. Naturally the claimant was very shocked at hearing this and appealed against the amount made against her.

She was successful on appeal as the tribunal Judge had not followed the correct procedure and rules for making such an award. A lucky escape one could add. What this does demonstrate however, is the need to be honest and truthful throughout the process, not to embellish the truth or indeed put forward lies or mistakes in evidence. It also highlights potential ramifications of not being honest and open with the tribunal, or indeed, going to court with dirty hands.

It is one thing putting forward your case in a positive light, but something altogether different in attempting to mislead or give the false impression, even if it was another organisation with which she had apparently ‘exaggerated’ the truth, in this case to the relevant benefits department.

If the parties are not being clear about what they put before the Judge, then there are now warning signs that the Judge can award serious financial punishments.

What evidence is used during proceedings and how this is presented is fundamental to any claim before an employment tribunal. In order to avoid the pitfalls and problems that can arise when a party represents themselves and to ensure all relevant evidence is properly put forward, it is important that claimants receive proper legal advice and assistance.

By employment advisor/advocate, Peter Holmes