The Commons Select Committee has decided to launch an inquiry into the effects of the introduction and levels of the tribunal fees and charges. The Commons Select Committee inquiry is separate from the Ministry of Justice’s (MOJ) review. The differences from the MOJ reviews are that this new inquiry is taking evidence from external bodies, involves 11 cross-party MPs, and is looking at courts and tribunals generally.
At the moment, aggrieved claimants have to pay an issue fee of £160 and a hearing fee of £230 for “straightforward” claims such as unlawful deduction from wages. For more “complex” claims such as sex discrimination and sexual harassment the issue fee is £250 and the hearing fee is £950. This means that an employee is already £1,200 out of pocket before they even go before a judge. It is true that some firms offer to pay the fees on a ‘no-win-no fee’ basis. If the claim is successful case law suggests that the £1,200 is to be recovered from the employer.
Many may think this is all good news, as it has weeded out frivolous and vexatious claims to the tune of an 80% reduction. Tumbleweeds in the ET and judges worrying about redundancies aside, what the statistics do not show is that the cost of employee disputes have been either shifted to mandatory ACAS early conciliation or brought in-house under settlement agreements. Employers still have to engage in the ACAS conciliation or settlement agreement negotiations. The “blackmail effect” has therefore not disappeared and in many cases complex employment disputes are being resolved without objective examination of evidence and submissions on points of law.
Staff issues and workplace disputes have not and will not disappear. After all we are only human and will continue to do foolish things at work. It may well be that employers are spending just as much, if not more, financial resources and management time and effort on settling inevitable disputes. It is also important to note at this point that ET litigation is usually not as costly as civil litigation and that the ET do not usually make costs orders. This should be considered when putting forward a commercial offer regardless of wherever if it is through ACAS or in an internal settlement negotiation.
As you may recall, ARC was heavily involved in shaping the tribunal fee regime. Some points were still passed on. ARC is therefore launching a new campaign and we would love to hear your views on how employee disputes have affected your business and whether you are still feeling like you are being “blackmailed”?
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