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What do Employment Tribunal claims tell us about workplace conflict? A reappraisal of the evidential base and its implications for the study of employment relations in Great Britain

Mace, Jonathan 2023. What do Employment Tribunal claims tell us about workplace conflict? A reappraisal of the evidential base and its implications for the study of employment relations in Great Britain. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Since 1972, the increasing annual number of Employment Tribunal claims has been used as a proxy for workplace conflict by academia and as ‘evidence’ of an increasing ‘burden on business’ by policy makers. By undertaking a forensic examination of the Employment Tribunal claims statistics from 1972, this thesis reappraises what Employment Tribunal claims actually tell us about workplace conflict. The reappraisal gives the reader an understanding of multi-applicant claims for the first time and shows how the growth of Employment Tribunal multiapplicant claims have, over time, changed the makeup of the annual Employment Tribunal total claims accepted count and hence changed what conclusions can be made about the ‘workplace conflict’ that the annual total claims accepted number represents. This thesis goes on to conclusively show that the annual total claims accepted number is not a suitable proxy for workplace conflict or an illustration of the increasing ‘burden on business’. In short, this thesis demonstrates that Employment Tribunal statistics are not an accurate indicator of the underlying levels and patterns of workplace conflict in Great Britain and highlights both a gap in the academic literature and subsequent policy implementation. As a result of the reappraisal this thesis has generated four major contributions. Firstly, the thesis develops an understanding of the ‘missing’ intermediate level, the SACs and particularly MACs, how they are different and how their relationship has changed over time and how this has changed the TCA. Understanding this ‘missing’ intermediate level is important because it fills in a significant gap in our knowledge of ETs. Although largely of descriptive nature, MACs will be covered in a way that has not been done before, which will enable a better understanding of MACs. Secondly, despite often being used as a proxy for workplace conflict, this thesis offers a rejection of the idea that an increase in ET claims directly represents an increase in workplace conflict. This thesis will show that neither vi genuine employment disputes nor vexatious claims are major drivers of the observed increases in the ET TCA statistics, but rather a combination of the ET’s own administrative rules or processes generating administrative ‘ghost claims’ and a change in the nature of the claim which the ET is being asked to adjudicate from ‘contended facts’ as often seen in the traditional Unfair Dismissal cases to ‘contended law’. This thesis reveals this change and in doing so develops our understanding of how the role of the ET has shifted and grown, over time, into both a forum for the negotiation of the rules of employment relationship through what Streeck (1997), regards as the societal benefit of beneficial constraints and a forum for the resolution of collective workplace differences, potentially substituting for collective bargaining between trade unions and employers. Thirdly, the thesis contributions in this theme relate to the reinterpretation of what ‘success’ at an ET means and takes Deakin et al.’s (2015) nomenclature as a guiding principle. The contributions are based on the key finding that the ET has over time redefined the meaning of ‘Struck Out’ as an outcome/disposal type. ‘Struck Out’ has become largely interchangeable/synonymous with the outcome/disposal type Withdrawn. This finding leads to a reassessment of what successful in terms of the ET might actually mean. Finally, using Hand D.’s (2018) guiding caveats regarding ‘administrative data’ the thesis shows that data around ETs are problematic and this problematic nature impacts our ability to fully understand conflict in the workplace

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Business (Including Economics)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Uncontrolled Keywords: administrative beneficial burden conflict constraint contended ghost intermediate likely multi-applicant Rule 9 struck successful tribunal vexatious
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 28 May 2024
Last Modified: 28 May 2024 10:10

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