How much does it cost to go to an Employment Tribunal?

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You can minimise costs at Tribunal by representing yourself.

No fees are charged by the Employment Tribunals to bring or defend a claim, and you don’t have to use solicitors to represent you.  However, if you do use a solicitor, they will charge for representing you and their fees will depend on who you use and what you’re claiming.

Do you need a solicitor for an employment tribunal?

No, you don’t have to use a solicitor to deal with an Employment Tribunal claim. The Employment Tribunals are less formal than the Courts, and have different, supposedly less complex rules.  They were originally set up so that employees and employers could deal with their own claims.

However, employment law is often complicated and it’s a lengthy and stressful thing to go through an Employment Tribunal claim, even with legal support. The rules must be complied with, so you need to be confident that you’re aware of deadlines and what is required.  A solicitor will take this on for you.

Should I settle or go to tribunal?

This is a tricky question, and the answer will depend on several factors. One of our first jobs to do when we’re instructed is to fully review your situation and potential claims – or your actual claim if you’ve already filed it, or you’re an employer who’s received a claim. We’ll do a full analysis of your position, chances of success, or of successfully defending the claim, along with costs information.

We’ll talk to you about how much risk you are prepared to bear – and whether you’re prepared to pay the costs of going the distance to a final merits hearing regardless.  For instance, we’ll ask things like: Do you want to fight on even if you could settle now? Do you want your day in tribunal? As an employer, do you want to avoid giving other employees the impression that you’ll settle any claim? Would you rather spend the money on legal fees than on a settlement deal where there’s a good chance of successfully defending the claim? What’s your bottom line – what would be enough in terms of money and other non-financial terms to persuade you to settle?

Any lawyer should help you with this cost/benefit analysis, and keep an eye on it throughout, as part of ensuring that you are aware of the cost/benefit of continuing.  There’s no benefit to you in spending a huge amount on legal fees to pursue a hopeless claim, or one which isn’t worth as much as you’re spending.

Many employers will be willing to enter a commercial settlement to avoid the costs and management time involved in defending a claim to a hearing.  Mediation, or Judicial Mediation with an Employment Judge, can help “referee” the parties if direct negotiations have stalled.

Mediation may be a cost effective alternative to a Tribunal.

Can you get compensation for unfair dismissal?

If you succeed in an unfair dismissal claim, you will usually be awarded compensation.  You can also ask the Employment Tribunal to reinstate or reengage you – i.e. to give you your job back, with or without making up the gap in earnings.  This is pretty rare though, not least because by the time you’re in a Tribunal hearing relationships have probably soured beyond rescue.

Unfair dismissal compensation is in two parts:

  • Basic award – calculated on a formula, the same as statutory redundancy pay – see here for details.
  • Compensatory award – unfair dismissal awards are capped at the lower of 52 weeks pay or £93,878 (as at April 2022/23 – see here for current figures as they change every year).

Compensation for unfair dismissal is awarded based on loss of earnings, and other cash losses, at whatever amount the Employment Tribunal thinks is “just and equitable” in the circumstances.

If you’ve got another job soon after dismissal, on the same or better pay, you won’t be awarded much compensation.  Conversely if you’ve been unable to get a job for say a year, despite making every effort, you could be awarded a year’s losses.

What is the average payout for unfair dismissal claims?

Talking about payouts by Employment Tribunals, statistics show that the average award for unfair dismissal for 2021/22 was £13,541.  Median awards for unfair dismissal have been between £6,000 and £8,000 for several years.  So, whilst the cap is 52 weeks’ pay or £93,878, it’s clear that Tribunals rarely award anywhere close to that amount.  By the time you’ve paid solicitors’ fees, you’re unlikely to be in “profit”.

What about settlement deals?  Well, in negotiating a deal, we take account of the cost/benefit of pursuing a claim to the final hearing, whichever party we’re acting for.  Aside from the benefits of reaching an early deal, on terms that both sides can live with, a settlement helps contain costs too. There are of course no statistics for how much claims are settled for – it’s always confidential.  However, our experience is that both parties will usually take the legal costs into consideration to some extent when deciding how much they want to settle for.  The earlier you settle, the lower your costs and the idea is that as such, you’ll be in “profit” after settling.

After all, there’s no point if you don’t end up with some money to show for it.

Need more help?

If you need more help with the subjects covered here then do reach out to our expert employment law solicitors.  You can speak to our employment solicitors online via email employment@qlaw.co.uk or call us on 03300 020 863.

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