More about Tribunals
Employment tribunals were first established as industrial tribunals in the 1970s. The original aim was to establish a forum that would enable users to obtain a speedy solution to their industrial disputes free of charge and legal complexities.
At that time industrial law was in its infancy but the Industrial Relations Act 1971 gave some protection against unfair dismissal and the right to join trade unions, but also prohibited strikes. 1970 also saw the introduction of an Equal Pay Act to equalise the pay between men and women, which is still a work in progress.
Increasing legal complexity:
Over the intervening years employment law became increasingly complicated as more layers of legislation were introduced.
Since the 1970s, employment legislation has increased significantly, with key statutes such as the Employment Rights Act 1996 consolidating many aspects of the law in this field, particularly unfair dismissal. Discrimination law has also developed, with the relevant law (previously contained in several pieces of legislation) being brought together in the Equality Act 2010.
The resulting complicated factual and legal scenarios often necessitated the input of solicitors or barristers to interpret and debate the merits of each individual case.
The Unison challenge and the abolition of Employment Tribunal Fees:
As a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling that the introduction of fees was unlawful a claimant no longer has to pay a fee to submit a claim online or at a Tribunal Office. Additionally all those who had paid fees since 2013 received a full refund.
Increase in Tribunal applications:
Following the removal of the fee regime, there was a huge increase in Employment Tribunal applications to the Employment Tribunals.
Furthermore, in 2012 there were other changes that had an impact upon the total number of Tribunal claims.
Unfair dismissal – eligibility (period of continuous employment):
Before 2012 employees needed to accrue only 12 months service in order to bring a claim for unfair dismissal. Since 6 June 2012 all employees have needed 24 months continuous service in order to do so, unless they fall into a category where no period of continuous employment is required, such as where the dismissal is automatically unfair under the employment legislation, or for acts of discrimination.
Litigants in Person:
The other impediment to pursuing a tribunal claim for those on lower incomes who do not have legal expenses insurance and cannot afford lawyers’ fees, is the daunting prospect of representing themselves. It may be that, if early conciliation through ACAS remains mandatory, individuals will try to resolve their dispute amicably, and if that fails, move on to alternative employment.
If individuals persist in their claim (so that employers need to instruct solicitors), they may succeed in obtaining some compensation, either from a negotiated settlement, or, alternatively by way of a Tribunal hearing.
The braver individuals may persist undeterred and represent themselves, but the less resilient may withdraw their claims. Tribunals have the power to award a costs order against any party, although this is unusual. However, there is a costs risk if claims are withdrawn very near to the final Hearing date.
If individuals issue proceedings for meritorious claims then Employers would be well advised to seek legal advice and early settlement. However, if the claim is vexatious, then the Employer may decide to defend the claim.
Recovery of costs:
Unlike the civil court system, costs are not usually awarded to the winning party by the Employment Tribunal. However, if there is a strong indication that the claim should never have been issued, then there is a greater prospect of a Respondent (employer) receiving a costs order – although that may be a pyrrhic victory if the individual has no funds and no assets. Furthermore, if the Tribunal makes a Deposit Order against a Claimant, this is an indication that the Tribunal considers that the particular head of claim has poor prospects of success.
If you require legal advice and assistance with regard to an employment tribunal please contact rhw employment law solicitors in Guildford.