Business Law: Frances Barker on changes affecting Employment Tribunal claims

THE Government is fed up with the amount of claims that are made to the Employment Tribunal. It costs the Government a fortune, and employers are fed up too, feeling that when someone is dismissed there is nothing to stop them taking a pop at the employer, threatening a tribunal claim and seeing if some money can be squeezed out of them.

So later in 2013 it is going to become harder for employees to bring claims against their employers. There will be a financial deterrent.

At present there is no fee payable to bring a claim. Soon, however, anyone who wants to bring a claim will have to pay an “issue fee” at the start, of between �160 and �230.

If the case carries on, then the claimant will have to pay a “hearing fee” of a further �250 to �950. The amounts depend on the type of case, with claims for unfair dismissal or discrimination nearer the higher end.

Those on low incomes may not have to pay any or all, but, for most employees, if they want to have a go at the employer they will have to come up with a substantial fee before proceedings can start.

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Another measure to lower the number of claims is that, before they can bring a claim, employees will be obliged to have informed ACAS, the arbitration and conciliation service, about the dispute.

ACAS will then try to settle it so that it won’t go to the tribunal at all. And presumably, if it is a hopeless case, ACAS will have the opportunity to point this out to the employee.

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If a claim is brought and lost, the tribunal can already make an order that the loser should contribute to the winner’s costs. Costs orders are likely to be on the increase, imposed more often and for higher amounts. There is going to be an additional penalty against employers if they have behaved badly.

So will 2013 be the year when the number of claims at last really goes down? We shall see, but all good employers will continue to manage people within the law so that, usually, goodwill is preserved and the employer is in a strong position even if a claim is brought.

Perhaps employers will feel able to manage employees effectively and in a way which is of benefit to the business or organisation.

More advice on any aspect of a claim can be obtained from Frances Barker. Call 01473 343911 or email .

: : Frances Barker is employment partner at Blocks Solicitors.

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