Employment tribunal fee consultation issued today

A consultation document in relation to fees for employment tribunal cases has today been issued by the MOJ [Ministry of Justice]. The consultation, which is due to close on March 6 next year, sets out 2 broad alternatives for employment tribunal fees;

  • The first alternative involves a variable fee – which would be set according to the type of employment tribunal claim. The first suggested level involves unpaid wages or unlawful deduction of wages claims, the second level would be for unfair dismissal compensation claims and the third level would cover whistle blowing and employment tribunal discrimination claims. The consultation invites comments on what they refer to as “indicative fees” – which range from between £150 and £250 for issuing a tribunal claim up to somewhere between £250 and £1,250 for a fully contested employment tribunal final hearing.
  • The second alternative involves a different fee level – but would be limited to any compensation claim in excess of £30K – and would only involve an issue fee, which could be set somewhere between £200 and £1,750. No further hearing fee would be involved.

The consultation paper also seeks views on many other issues including written judgements, discounts for multiple claims and the possible remission of fees for the low paid or unwaged.

ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures

Following the Dispute Resolution Review (DRR) the Government changed the way we deal with problems at work by repealing the widely criticised statutory disciplinary and grievance procedures. In 2009 they were superseded by the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures, issued under section 207 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992. To accompany the new Code, ACAS also produced a new non-statutory guide which provides information on handling discipline and grievance solutions in the workplace.

Disciplinary and grievance procedures are frameworks which provide clear and transparent structures for dealing with difficulties which may arise as part of the working relationship from either the employer’s or employee’s perspective.

They are necessary to ensure that everybody is treated in the same way in similar circumstances, to ensure issues are dealt with fairly and reasonably, and that employers are compliant with current legislation and follow the ACAS Code of Practice for handling disciplinary and grievance issues and are needed to:

• act as a point of reference for an employment tribunal should someone make a complaint about the way they have been dismissed

• enable employers and employees to agree suitable goals and timescales for improvement in an individual’s performance or conduct

• identify obstacles to individuals achieving the required standards (for example training needs, lack of clarity of job requirements, additional support needed) and to enable employers to take appropriate action

• let employees know what is expected of them in terms of standards of performance or conduct (and the likely consequences of continued failure to meet these standards)

• try to resolve matters without recourse to an employment tribunal claim

Grievance procedures are needed to:

• provide individuals with a course of action if they have a complaint (which they are unable to resolve through regular communication with their line manager)

• provide points of contact and timescales to resolve issues of concern

• try to resolve matters without recourse to an employment tribunal

Disciplinary and grievance procedures under the ACAS Code suggest parties should rather than must act in a certain way. A dismissal will no longer be found to have been an automatically unfair dismissal if the employer does not follow the procedure. However, Employment Tribunals ruling on individual cases can:

• Increase employment tribunal compensation by up to 25 per cent where the employer has ‘unreasonably’ failed to follow the ACAS Code for a disciplinary or a grievance

• Reduce compensation by up to 25 per cent where the employee has ‘unreasonably’ failed to follow the ACAS Code when carrying out employment disciplinary procedures or handling a grievance

if you’re an employer,don’t risk being caught out by getting the disciplinary and grievance procedure wrong – if you’re not sure what procedure you should follow contact our specialist employment tribunal solicitors on 0800 1404544 for free initial phone advice -it might be all you need to put your mind to rest.


Compensation for Pregnancy Discrimination at work

Any woman who is dismissed from her employment because of her pregnancy is entitled to claim for unfair dismissal compensation. She should seek specialist legal advice from employment solicitors as quickly as possible as there are strict time limit when making this kind of discrimination claim.

Any award compensation the woman may receive will be made of up two components – the basic award and the compensatory award.

The basic award which is determined by the claimant’s age and the length of time she had been working for her employer. These calculations are made in a similar way as those for redundancy payments.

The purpose of the compensatory award is to compensate any financial loss suffered by the claimant following her workplace dismissal. This is calculated by totalling the wages lost by the woman from the time of her dismissal right up to the employment tribunal claim hearing itself. Added to this is an estimated figure for future wages lost.

An additional compensation sum may also be awarded if sex discrimination is proven, as well as for hurt to feelings and any detrimental effects to her health.

Employment law is complex and constantly changing. If you’re thinking of making a claim for employment tribunal compensation, contact our specialist pregnancy discrimination solicitors today on 0800 1404544. Intelligently, to find out more about pregnancy discrimination at work, click here to visit our specialist Pregnancy Discrimination website.


Government plans to restrict unfair dismissal rights – the effect?

Government plans to restrict the qualification period for any employment tribunal claim for unfair dismissal compensation to those who been in their current employment for two years [replacing the current 12 month qualifying period ] will, if it is enacted, effectively return the law to the state it was in before 1999. Apparently the main thrust of thinking behind this particular government policy is to assist the faltering economy and to make it easier for businesses to take on new staff – it’s estimated that the number of unfair dismissal claims annually could fall by up to 2000 as a direct result – saving British business an estimated £6m pa.

But on the basis that the government proceed with their plans, are they likely to be challenged? The rules were changed in 2000, largely as the result of a legal challenge – made on the basis that a qualification period of two years unfairly affected women and as result was a form of indirect sex discrimination. So, if the new proposals, do indeed come into force, expect similar types of legal challenges – and probably other ones too – on the basis of the significantly increased levels of employment law protection introduced since the turn of the millennium.

Employment tribunal claims – big changes confirmed

The government has just confirmed details of two significant changes to the employment tribunals system – which is clearly aimed at reducing the number of employment tribunal claims being made.

The first change, as expected, is that with effect from April 1 next year, the qualification period for making an unfair dismissal claim will increase from one year to two.

The second announcement confirms the introduction of application fees for all employment tribunal compensation claims, which are likely to be as follows;

  • £250 form ET1 is initially launched
  • an additional fee of £1000 on listing of the final hearing
  • increased application fees if more than £30,000 compensation is being claimed
  • a refund of all application fees should the claim be successful
  • some form of fee waiver for those on benefits for low-income – though the details of this have not yet been confirmed

This could have a significant effect on the number of claims being made annually – in particular it will remain to be seen whether some employees are quite so keen to take their employment dispute to a tribunal given the size of the application fee – and what will happen to those employment tribunal solicitors running from claims under no win no fee schemes – will they be prepared to fund his sizeable application fees themselves ? Only time will tell.

Latest employment law reform proposals

The government had just issued proposals online of the changes to employment law – as part of an extended attempt to cut red tape, de-regulate business and reduce employment law threats to UK businesses. Oddly enough, they haven’t yet released this information in any form of press release.

With regard to employment law, the principal plans to limit dismissal claim rights are as follows;

  • The qualification period for unfair dismissal compensation increases from 12 months to 2 years
  • they propose introducing a new application fee for making an employment tribunal claim
  • they propose a consultation on amendments to current provisions of the 2010  Equality Act under which employers can be liable for any harassment of their employees by third parties – if they haven’t taken reasonable steps to stop the harassment

We will have to wait and see whether these proposals go through [and these plans were trumpeted by the government some months ago] – but if they do turn into legislation in due course, it is broadly good news for employers but less good for employees, whose employment rights will be reduced.

Employment tribunal claims – costs warning

In the past making an employment tribunal claim has been relatively risk free for the applicant – especially if they instruct the solicitor under a no win no fee employment tribunal agreement. Indeed, many of those people applying to the employment tribunal probably don’t realize that they could have costs orders awarded against them if they lose. Hidden in the small print of the employment tribunal regulations is a provision which permits tribunals to award legal costs – but this is usually restricted to a maximum of £10k. What’s more, tribunals only make such awards on very, very rare occasions. In the 2 years ending March 31, 2011, there were more than 450,000 compensation claims to tribunals. Over a very similar period, however, cost awards will be made in just 324 cases – and the average cost order limited to just £1k.

However, in a recent case where the applicant’s claim failed [and where the case was bluntly described by the tribunal itself as “a waste of time”], the employment tribunal went much further and awarded a staggering £100,000 in legal costs against the applicant. Tribunals are able, in exceptional circumstances, to exceed the £10k limit for cost awards in cases where the application is felt to be false or malicious i.e. it’s clear as crystal that the employee is trying it on and lying through their back teeth in attempt to wrestle some compensation from their former employer.

The advice of our employment tribunal solicitors? This case should never discourage any genuine applicant for employment tribunal compensation – it’s clearly not meant to do that, and there’s no indication that this is anything but a very exceptional case. But some people do make fraudulent claims – and it’s those people, who of course bring genuine claimants a bad name, who are vulnerable to really substantial costs orders and you need to think twice before making a fraudulent application.

Employment tribunal claims statistics – interesting details

On examining the statistics from the latest employment tribunal claim statistics for the year ending March 31, 2011, a few statistics really stood out.

Firstly, it was very how very few reinstatement or re-engagement orders were made. Out of 49,600 unfair dismissal claims, tribunals awarded just 8 reinstatements.

Also noticeable were the significant differences between the average award for different types of claim. Claims for unfair dismissal compensation, for example, resulted in an average award of £8924 – this compares with, for example, an average of  £13,911 for sex discrimination claims, £14,130 for disability discrimination and a huge average award of £30,299 for employment tribunal age discrimination claims.

It was also interesting to compare the number of claims made – apart from the huge number of claims involving the working time directive [artificially inflated because of resubmitted multiple claims] and Unlawful Deduction of Wages Claims [there  were remarkably 71,300 of those], unfair dismissal provided the largest number of claims – 47,900. With regard to discrimination cases – equal pay claims dominated [34,600] with sex discrimination claims totaling 18,300. It was particular noticeable that age discrimination cases had almost doubled in 2 years to 6,800 – and given the huge size of the average award for age discrimination, this is perhaps one area where employers should take particular care.

2010-2011 Employment Tribunal statistics released

The 2010-2011 statistics for the Employment Tribunal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal have just been released.

The latest figures actually show a drop of 8% in the number of employment tribunal claims received which contrasted with an increase of 9% in the number of claims that are actually being dealt with at tribunal.

There is, however, a significant difference in the figures between different sorts of claims – for example, whilst the number of employment tribunal redundancy and unfair dismissal claims has dipped slightly, the number of age discrimination claims rose by 15%.

The average award for employment tribunal unfair dismissal compensation was £4,591 with the average discrimination case resulting in compensation of between £5,000-£6,500.

The highest level of unfair dismissal compensation was, for a whopping £181,754 -though the fact that this award exceeds the statutory cap suggests that this dismissal claim may have been in relation to health and safety or a whistleblowing complaint.

Discrimination claims in 2009-2010 saw even higher levels of compensation – the highest award for sex discrimination being £289,167 and for employment tribunal disability discrimination and absolutely enormous £729,347

Equality for agency workers arrives on October 1

Employers, not to mention recruitment agencies, will have to pay close attention to the new regulations affecting agency workers. After October 1st, following an initial qualifying period [see below], agency workers become entitled to similar rights and working conditions enjoyed by full-time permanent workers – including the right to receive the same pay as full timers doing the same or a similar job.

The initial qualification period for the new rights is 12 weeks – however if any employer wants to avoid the risk of and handing over full timer’s rights to any agency worker, they will need to terminate the employee contract of the agency work out within a 12 week- and will then need to make sure that there is at least a 6 weeks gap before taking on the same agency worker. The relations also include wide-ranging anti-avoidance provisions – e.g., you can’t avoid handing over equal rights to agency workers simply by moving them to a different department.

Agency workers are also entitled to other rights including car parking, canteen and childcare arrangements from the very 1st day they work for an employer – although, of course, they will also be subject to any waiting lists for such rights which also apply to permanent staff.

In the event that any temporary employee is likely to benefit from these regulations the recruitment agency has to ask the employer to provide basic information about working conditions and wages etc.

Any employment or recruitment agency in breach of the regulations is at risk of an employment tribunal claim for compensation being made by the disgruntled temp.

Our employment lawyers‘ advice for employers ? Make sure your HR department, or whoever is responsible for hiring temps, is aware of the regulations, which adds yet more red tape to the ever growing employment law burden on UK employers.