Forbes warns employers over increased employment tribunal threat

Forbes Solicitors has urged employers to protect themselves from the increased threat of being taken to an employment tribunal after the number of claims has more than doubled.

Emma Swan ForbesThe large increase in single claims has followed the abolition of Employment Tribunal fees on July 26, 2017. It has prompted Forbes to offer dedicated advice on the issue during a HR Retreat seminar at Stanley House Hotel & Spa, Mellor, on Thursday September 27.

Emma Swan, a partner in Forbes employment law department, revealed that as a result of the changes, there were 9,252 single employment tribunal claim receipts between January and March this year, compared to 4,300 in the quarter before fees were abolished.

She said: “We have seen our employer clients exposed to a greater number of threatened and actual employment tribunal claims. The abolition of fees has meant that there is less of a disincentive for employees to bring claims, increasing the potential and actual exposure of employers.

“This increased exposure makes it increasingly important for employers to ensure that any matter that has a potential to turn litigious is dealt with efficiently and pro-actively, and legal advice should be sought as soon as possible.”

The employment tribunal (ET) is an independent judicial body established to resolve disputes between employers and employees in relation to employment rights and hears claims such as unfair dismissal, discrimination, wage disputes and redundancy payments.

Employment tribunal fees were abolished after the Supreme Court held that there was a real risk that employees would effectively be prevented by cost from having access to justice.

Emma added: “With early intervention by Forbes Solicitors to manage the legal aspects of employee disputes, our clients can minimise their exposure by ensuring that they have acted within the confines of the law and by providing clarity to employees that any potential claim may be misconstrued and futile to pursue.

“Essentially, there is a greater need for employers to nip matters in the bud before they escalate to avoid long, drawn out claims.”

Following the abolition of employment tribunal fees, last November the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service rolled out a full refund scheme allowing litigants to reclaim any fees they paid between July 29 2013 to July 26 2017, provided they were not paid a costs order covering their tribunal fees.

In April 2018, the Lord Chancellor reported that there had been low numbers of applications for refunds and that the MoJ would therefore write to potentially eligible people to promote awareness and encourage refund applications.

Emma Swan added: “Whilst it may appear at first glance to mainly benefit individual employee claimants, the scheme is relevant also to employers taking the respondent role in employment tribunal claims.

“For example, not only can reimbursement for respondent’s fees be requested, but an employer who has lost a case and has been ordered to pay the claimant’s employment tribunal fees can claim a refund in respect of those fees under the scheme.”

The Forbes HR Retreat interactive session on employment tribunals will be led by members of Forbes’ Employment Team and will provide an overview of the current employment tribunal process and the new challenges and will include useful tips for HR on employment tribunal claims.

For information on how to book a place please visit the Forbes website. For advice relating to an employee dispute or employment tribunal claim, or further information or support regarding the refund scheme, please get in touch with a member of Forbes’ employment and HR team on 0333 207 1135.