The dust is starting to settle on the recent Supreme Court decision relating to employment tribunal fees. Talking to employment lawyers in the region, all are expecting a steady increase in tribunal claims.
Tribunal fees were introduced in 2013 and the number of cases brought declined sharply. The evidence of this was clear and was recognised by the Supreme Court recently. Whatever you think about spurious claims (and we used to have a fair number of these), I have no doubt that genuine claims were not brought in the last 4 year period.
Things will change now but it will not be overnight. I suspect there will be a gradual increase in claims and we will see more of the lower value claims coming back. These were the cases where the alleged loss was quite modest and the fees out of proportion to the claim.
Employment teams have generally shrunk over the last few years and recruitment at junior level has not been buoyant. This is likely to change but there may be a shortage of employment lawyers in the 1 – 3 year qualified range. By contrast to many other local firms, we have maintained a large team of employment solicitors and we have 6 qualified solicitors supported by a trainee and excellent secretarial and administrative support. We are therefore well placed to help employers with tribunal claims. In addition, we can offer the following support:
We have a capped fee tribunal service for employers. When an employer is faced with a tribunal claim, it will make a decision as to whether to try and settle or fight the claim. If the solicitor representing the client is vague on fees, the cost/benefit analysis can be hard to make. Employers need, as far as possible, some certainty from their lawyers.
We try to help by offering a capped fee employment tribunal service. We offer this for all cases up to 2 days and on a case by case basis for the longer, more complex, claims. By offering a capped fee, we give an employer certainty on the cost of defending the claim.
We offer clients the chance to purchase insurance which covers both the cost of defending cases and any award made. These insurance policies were very popular before 2013 but the number of clients taking them has dwindled over the last 4 years. I am anticipating renewed interest in such products.
Unlike some firms who demand that clients sign up for certain packages to get the insurance (sometimes asking for a long tie-in), we allow clients a lot of flexibility in this regard. Clients can opt to buy insurance as part of a retainer package if they want, but can also bolt it on to other fee arrangements.
We have a tremendous amount of experience of dealing with tribunal claims in our team. Employers will be disappointed at the prospect of an increased number of tribunal claims but this is inevitably going to happen. We hope that our depth of experience and fee arrangements can be of assistance in this regard.