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Tribunal Fees Abolished

Saturday, October 14th, 2017

Tribunal fees abolished: what now for employers?

Several clients echoed a collective ‘hurray’ when tribunal fees were introduced – surely this will deter silly claims? But what now?

The Supreme Court’s decision that fees to access the employment tribunal system are unlawful is potentially a game changer for employees and employers.

Before the introduction of fees employment related claims were four times higher than they are today. This recent decision is likely to see a huge increase in claims for employers, possibly returning to the high level previously recorded. Employers had complained about spurious claims wasting time and money. Employee bodies argued that fees prevented claims with merit from being heard. Both sides have a point.

So what now for employers? How should they respond? Here are some thoughts and tips for you to consider

Do not be side tracked by the prospect of an increased risk of claims. Continue to do the right thing. Think and plan, yes but if the decision affecting the workplace is correct and appropriate, take it. Make sure your HR is robust and carry on!

  1. Review your processes and the resources applied to managing your workforce. Procedures have to be fair and robust with a sensible line of decision making.
  2. Take advice as necessary to balance management requirements with the rights of employees. Advice does not always have to be over cautious. Skilled advisers will offer a solution.
  3. Spurious claims are a risk. Resist the temptation to settle, even at a nuisance level. Unfortunately, by settling too readily, some employers gain a reputation as a “soft touch” and the problem escalates. Committed and loyal employees can also become disillusioned with a management approach that does not tackle the issue. There is often no harsher judge of an errant employee than a fellow employee!
  4. Tribunals do have systems designed to help weed out spurious claims and (contrary to widespread belief) costs can be awarded against claimants pursuing unmerited claims. Use the tools available as appropriate and encourage those representing you to fully explore these options. In appropriate cases pressure can be applied.
  5. Support managers and fellow employees who might be required to give evidence. To most people who have never had first-hand experience of giving evidence it is a daunting prospect.

In some respects, this will be back to the future but the underlying principles of good management should continue to hold firm. If it is right – it is right!