Employees who bring cases over discrimination in the workplace to court create a very real concern for employers, according to one employment solicitor.

James Carmody, of Reculver Solicitors, has pointed out that even if a company wins a claim brought to tribunal, they can seldom recover the costs and time involved in the process.

“A real concern for many employers is that if an employee brings a claim in the employment tribunal, the employer is put in a lose-lose situation,” he said.

“Even if they subsequently win the claim, they will have been put through the hassle and cost of defending it in any event, and legal costs are seldom recoverable against the employee.”

In 2011 the government announced a series of reforms to employment law, including an initiative that would require claimants to pay a fee towards the cost of the tribunal.

However, experts have suggested that the focus should be on avoiding employment tribunals and resolving workplace conflict before it reaches that stage.

While the proposed fee structure for employment tribunals has been met with criticism, the introduction of mediation schemes has received a more welcoming response from industry figures.

Meanwhile, CIPD vice-president Nita Clarke has said that employers need to foster high levels of employee engagement if they want to reduce the number of employment tribunals.

She told People Management she believed that by listening to their workforce, organisations could avoid the costly and damaging effects of dealing with lawyers and PR companies after a claim reaches tribunal stage.

“In organisations that respect staff as an asset there is much more dialogue and transparency, and bad behaviours – whether by managers or staff – do not go unchallenged,” she said.

“I think in those organisations there are less likely to be cases of unfair dismissal and the need to go to employment tribunals and so on. The legislative underpinning is very important, but it’s the culture that changes things in workplaces.”