Published: 01:57, 27 July 2018
| Updated: 09:09, 30 July 2018
Legal experts are warning business employers to take cover following a change in the law that has led to a surge in the number of employment tribunal (ET) cases.
The Supreme Court had described ET fees as preventing employees access to justice and were deemed to be unlawful in a ruling back in July 2017.
The decision, which effectively meant that employees no longer need to pre pay as much as £1,200 in tribunal costs to get their complaints heard, opened the floodgates with the number of claims making their way to tribunals in 2018 almost doubling those from 2017.
“Employees are now bringing claims without the fear of having to pay fees, so employers are having to be more careful in making decisions about dismissing them,” commented Just Employment Law Director David Reid.
“It’s important for employers to act reasonably when making decisions about employees.
“Simple mistakes like not issuing contracts of employment or making a deduction from wages without proper authority can be very expensive.”
Single claims received by ETs (for January, February and March 2018, compared to the same government figures from last year) shot up by 118%, claims disposed of (completed) increased by 43% while outstanding or pending caseloads of single claims also recorded a rise of 66%. Multiple caseloads outstanding rose by 21%.
Contrastingly, multiple ET claims - both receipts and disposals - decreased by 40% and 36% respectively, largely due to local authority equal pay claims by female workers and group holiday pay claims by those earning overtime or commission having peaked in previous years.
“The ET fees were too high,” continued Mr Reid. “Take the example of an employee who wanted to bring a claim for £100 of unpaid wages. To get a hearing, the employee had to pay fees of £390.
“For an unfair dismissal or discrimination claim, the total fee to get a hearing was £1,200.
“Although the tribunal could order the employer to reimburse the claimant for these fees if the claimant won, many claimants were put off by this.”
But the abolition of those fees could potentially pose a double-edged sword. Business owners may very well find themselves on the back-end of claims from employees with weak cases.
“It will probably be true that while there are no fees, some employees will be willing to have a go, as they have little to lose.
“Employees who lose tribunal claims only very rarely have to pay the employer’s costs, and only when their claim was found to be completely hopeless from the outset.
“The government might try to re-introduce fees in the future, but if they do so, the fees will have to be much lower to survive the scrutiny of the courts.”
With offices located in Glasgow, Aberdeen and London, Just Employment Law offer a specialist employment law service to both employer and employee clients whilst also remaining cost effective.
With clients all over the UK and others based abroad, Just Employment act for both individuals and businesses.
The firm’s legal team have extensive experience of representing clients at tribunals overseeing employment law - a fast-moving and complex legislative area.
“We are there to assist the employer, allow them to carry on with their day job and let us take care of all the areas we are experts in,” he concluded.
“Getting good advice allows employers to have confidence to take action where it needs to be taken, and helps avoid simple and costly mistakes.”
More by this authorJohn Leonidou