Employment Tribunal claims from staff who feel that they have been unfairly treated has been a fact of life for employers. Of course, there is a place for genuine employment related claims and it is important that the system supports employees who bring these. What is also clear is that over the years some staff have bought claims just hoping for a settlement sum and others have bought claims with little prospect of success because their knowledge of the law and procedure is lacking. As an employer if you receive a Tribunal claim, whether well founded or otherwise, it is expensive to negotiate, settle or defend. Ill founded claims also make the Tribunal system slow and prevent other claims from being dealt with efficiently. Recent developments in this area are potentially good news for employers.
Introduction of Employment Tribunal Fees
Until recently applicants have been able to bring a Tribunal claim for free and without legal representation, so many of them have felt that they have little to lose in issuing proceedings. Since 29 July 2013 however, Applicants have been required to pay both an issuing fee and a hearing fee if their claim proceeds to a hearing. The introduction of fees is already acting as a major disincentive to employees who hold a grudge and just want their “day in court” to air their views.
The new rules also discourage those who lodge claims on termination in the hope that the employer will find it cheaper to pay out a modest amount in settlement rather than defend the claim in the Tribunal.
The fee depends on the nature of the claim:
|Fee Type||Type A Claim||Type B Claim|
Common Type A Claims
Common Type B Claims
Those with disposable income below a certain limit will be able to claim a remission of fees. It is also worth noting that if the employee wins his/her case at the Tribunal then the employer is likely to be ordered to pay the employee’s Tribunal fees.
Initial sift of claims
Once a claim has been issued and a response received from the employer an Employment Judge will review the papers in the case. At this point he may order that further information be provided. In some cases he will have the power to dismiss a case at this point. For example a case will be dismissed if the Tribunal has no jurisdiction to hear it. This could happen if the employee does not have the required period of qualifying service to bring a claim for unfair dismissal. The judge may also dismiss a claim if he believes that it has no reasonable prospect of success.
This again is good news for employers as these measures are designed to prevent those claims with no prospect of success from reaching a hearing which is costly to both sides and unnecessarily clogs up the Tribunal system.
ACAS Early Conciliation
In another measure aimed at reducing the number of claims that get to the Employment Tribunals, where a claim is lodged after 6 May 2014 it will be mandatory for parties to attempt pre-claim conciliation through ACAS. Once Early Conciliation is introduced it will not be possible to lodge a claim at the Tribunal until a conciliation certificate has been issued by ACAS.
Pre-claim conciliation is a free service and so neither party has anything to lose in seeing whether an agreement can be reached before proceedings are issued and costs are incurred.
Before issuing a claim an applicant must contact ACAS who will then attempt to speak to both parties in the matter and conciliate where possible. If it is not possible to reach both parties then a conciliation statement will be issued.
If the parties agree to conciliation this can take place for up to a month, the aim being for ACAS to help the parties to settle their differences on their own terms. All conversations with ACAS are “without prejudice” so cannot be used as evidence in any subsequent Tribunal proceedings. An agreement reached through ACAS will be legally binding and will prevent any further Tribunal claim being brought about the matter. The time limit for bringing a claim to the Tribunal is put on hold during the conciliation period. An applicant has one month from the issue of a conciliation certificate to lodge a claim at the Tribunal even if the time limit would normally have expired by then.
It is a known fact that the earlier the parties come together to talk about their dispute the more likelihood there is of being able to resolve it. It is hoped that the new Early Conciliation Service will resolve many disputes without them needing to proceed to the Tribunal thus reducing time, cost and stress to both parties.
For further details of ACAS Early Conciliation see: http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=4028
The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.