Last month it was announced that the imposition of employment tribunal fees was unlawful – great news for employees, but what does this mean for employers?
Employment tribunal fees were first introduced in the summer of 2013; a ‘Type A’ claim (i.e. unlawful deduction from wages) had originally incurred an issue fee of £160.00 with a hearing fee of £230.00. For a ‘Type B’ claim (i.e. discrimination or unfair dismissal), the issue fee was £250.00 with a hearing fee of £950.00.
With fees being abolished, the UK is likely to see an increase in claims; it is expected that the figure will be between 60% and 80% based on the reduction in claims which followed employment tribunal fees being introduced initially.
We are also likely to witness workers who were not able to bring a claim initially, or that their case was dismissed by the employment tribunal for non-payment of the fee, seek for their claims to be reheard. The employment tribunal has confirmed that it will determine each application on its own merit.
With the above factors in mind, the government may take steps to put in place a fee structure which is more proportionate, although this remains to be seen given the government’s slim working majority.
Employers would often only consider settlement of a potential matter if the claimant essentially put their money where their mouth was and issued a claim. This can no longer be the case.
There is likely to be a more determined focus on ACAS early conciliation and legal advice at the very early stages of a potential issue and/or dispute, with a view that matters can be resolved at this point – proving to be both more cost and time effective for both parties involved.
We at Pinney Talfourd have found that where an employer has sought legal advice prior to a claim being issued, there is a greater degree of flexibility on both sides to resolve the matter amicably rather than both parties becoming entrenched in their positions once proceedings have been issued.
There will still be a number of claims where a party to the proceedings has acted in a vexatious manner – abusively, disruptively or otherwise unreasonably – either in the bringing of the proceedings or the way that the proceedings have been conducted.
The employment tribunal still has the power to award costs which may include legal fees, charges and disbursements and expenses. There is no limit on the amount of costs that a tribunal can award.
Where a party believes that the other has acted in a vexatious manner or any claim or response has no reasonable prospects of success, a cost warning letter should be prepared and dispatched.
If you require further legal advice on making a claim to an employment tribunal or need further information on the fee changes, please contact our Employment Department – our team of expert solicitors will be able to assist. Call on 01708 229444 or email us using our contact form.
This article was written by Alexander Pearce, Employment Law Associate at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of July 2017.