Are employment lawyers going to be less busy from today?

29th July 2013

Are employment lawyers going to be less busy from today?

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Today is an important day for employment lawyers, and for a large part of the working population and their employers, as any employee wishing to take their employer to a tribunal will now have to pay a fee of between £160 to £250 to lodge a claim and a further fee of between £230 to £950 for single claimants to have the claim heard, unless they qualify for partial or full fee remission. ( : for full details).

Also today, Unison has won its bid to obtain a judicial review hearing with a view to scrapping “The introduction of punitive fees” which “would give the green light to unscrupulous employers to ride roughshod over already basic workers’ rights” says General Secretary Dave Prentis. We have sympathy for their argument, introducing a fee to sieve out unmeritorious claims will also affect meritorious claims.

Whilst the outcome of the Unison challenge will only be known in October this year, will the introduction of the tribunal fees really have a significant impact on our clients?

We believe it will not. Tribunal fees are only going to be another hurdle for our clients to cross. Much more significant in our clients’ decision on whether to take matters to tribunal is the legal cost of bringing a claim. Awards for costs are extremely rare in the tribunals. An employee wishing to be represented will have to pay legal fees far in excess of the median award made by tribunals of £4,560 for unfair dismissals. The same is true for our client employers. For the latest statistics see:

For our analysis, see:

Trade Unions and legal insurers have already indicated that they will bear the cost of the tribunal fees for their members or clients. This leaves litigants in person. If a litigant in person has the time and energy to take the matter to tribunal themselves, this will often mean that they are unemployed, and because they are unemployed they may be able to qualify for fee remission.

The truth is that in the world of mid to senior management employees, employment tribunal claims are an exception. Most disputes are resolved behind the scenes with a settlement agreement, to use the new terminology in use as of today.

Another significant change coming into force today that could affect what goes on behind the scenes, is the imposition of a cap on unfair dismissal compensatory award of 12 months salary or £74,200 whichever is the lesser. This cap does not apply to discrimination claims or claims such as whistle blowing, which will continue to flourish as a means of avoiding the cap.

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