Expert view: Employment tribunals

New legislation has signalled the biggest change to employment tribunals in Britain since their introduction in the 1960s.

Krystal SavoieBy Krystal Savoie, Steele Ford & Newton.

Since 29 July 2013, aggrieved employees are required to pay a fee for lodging their claim with the tribunal, with a further fee payable in the event that a final hearing is to take place.

This covers all cases, with an initial fee of £160 applying to less complex claims and a higher fee of £250 for cases such as unfair dismissal and discrimination. Where a final hearing is to take place, fees of either £250 or £950 will apply.

With the number of tribunal hearings increasing by 81 per cent between 2001 and 2011, the aim of the new legislation is to prevent weak claims taking up the time of employers and the courts, whilst recouping some of the money being footed by the taxpayers.

But many unions feel it is further weakening the position of individuals and increasing the power of businesses.

The fees are not set in stone yet, with Unison challenging their introduction in the courts, but for now it is adding to the uncertainty of both employers and employees.

For employers, employment tribunals can be extremely costly for the business, with the maximum compensatory award increasing to £74,200 earlier this year and no upper limit for compensation in discrimination cases.

In addition to the financial costs, businesses have to take into account the time spent preparing the case, often by integral members of staff.

As such, the important of preventative measures can not be underestimated in reducing the risk of litigation.

The best thing for all parties is to help alleviate the needs for such process by accessing advice right from the outset in the hope that they can try to avoid expensive and unnecessary court proceedings. Krystal Savoie Head of employment law Steele Ford & Newton