HR Surgery: Changes in Employment Tribunal
Emma York our HR specialist recently interviewed Anna Denton-Jones, of Morgan Denton Jones Limited, a niche employment law and training practice based in Cardiff about some landmark changes in Employment Tribunal.
What is the current position?
At the moment, someone wanting to bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal is not charged anything for doing so. There has been a feeling, rightly or wrongly, that that makes it too “easy” for people to bring speculative claims.
When will things be changing?
Next summer – before then further guidance will be issued to help everyone get used to the new system.
How will things change?
The Claimant bringing a claim will have to pay an ‘issue fee’ of £160 or £250 depending on the type of case they are bringing. The lower amount will be for straight forward cases that don’t take up much employment tribunal time, but £250 will be the ‘norm’ for the majority of cases such as unfair dismissal and discrimination. If the case then doesn’t settle (80% of cases do settle at the moment) then before the final Hearing the Claimant will have to pay a further £230 or £950 meaning the average cost of bringing a claim before any legal costs are considered will be £1200. Judges will also have a discretionary power to make an employer who loses a case pay the winning employee their fees.
What do you think the consequences will be?
Undoubtedly there will be cases where fees put people off complaining, however, I believe they will be in a minority. Most people who bring claims already do so because they feel strongly that they have good grounds to do so.
It will put the pressure on advisers to try and find a solution to a dispute before the deadline for issuing proceedings but employers may be more likely to fight cases, playing brinkmanship with the Claimant to see if they are really willing to put their money where their mouth is and fight especially as the Hearing date gets closer.
What about people who can’t afford to pay?
There will be a system called “remission” for those who cannot afford to pay, for example those already claiming benefits. The threshold income is quite low so, for example, a couple with two children who earn jointly more than £23,860 would be expected to pay their own fees. There have been concerns from those who advise employees that access to justice will be damaged.