Is it worth using a lawyer to go to an Employment Tribunal?

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Using an expert employment solicitor may prove more cost effective in the long run.

Employment Tribunals are supposedly more user friendly than the Courts, and unlike in the Courts, you don’t have to have a lawyer to bring or defend an Employment Tribunal claim. However, employment law is complicated, the Tribunal rules must be complied with, and a specialist employment lawyer can help you navigate the process, taking on most of the strain.

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

The total legal fees involved in an Employment Tribunal claim will depend on who you instruct (you’ll pay more for a big London law firm than a local or online solicitor), the nature of the claim, and whether you want to go all the way to a final hearing or if you’re ideally looking for a settlement.

You’ll find some basic fees information here, though we always provide tailored estimates based on your particular situation, so that is only a ball park guide.

How much does it cost to take employer to tribunal?

You don’t have to pay any court fees to bring an Employment Tribunal claim.  If you instruct solicitors to represent you, you’ll usually need to pay their fees – most solicitors charge as we do the work.

As costs are very rarely awarded in Employment Tribunals, you need to assume that you won’t recover any of your own fees even if you win. On the other hand, you’re unlikely to have to pay any of the employer’s fees if you lose – especially if you’ve got a lawyer, who should ensure that there’s no reason to award costs against you. The amount of your fees will depend on things like the nature of your claim, the volume of documents involved, the number of witnesses involved, and whether you want to go all the way to a hearing or try to reach an early settlement.

Fees will also depend on how early we’ve been involved in the matter – and therefore how soon we’ve been able to start helping to build your strategy towards your ideal aim.  If we are brought in part way through, it can be costly and time-consuming to change direction.

Whilst it will start costing you money to instruct us to advise on a disciplinary or grievance or redundancy process, our “sweet spot” is helping to extract you from the situation as speedily as possible by negotiating an exit with a deal you’re content with, along with a decent contribution to your fees from your employer. We think a negotiated exit is often the best solution all round, as it enables both parties to draw a line under things and move forward as soon as possible.

But back to going to an Employment Tribunal.

There are some law firms who take claims on a “no win no fee” basis (sorry, we don’t do this).  There are also law firms who take on cases which are being supported by a legal expenses insurer (sorry again, we can’t offer this at present).  Either of those options can work out cheaper than paying privately all the way to a hearing, but after the hearing, you’ll lose a chunk of any compensation to the ”no win no fee” lawyer, and legal expenses insurers often don’t cover all fees, so neither is always a straightforward option.

Tribunals are intended to be more user friendly for the public.

How much does it cost to defend an Employment Tribunal claim?

There are no court fees involved in defending an Employment Tribunal claim.  If you instruct solicitors to represent your organisation, the business will usually need to pay their fees as the work is done.

On the other hand, as for employees, there is very little chance of also having to pay the employee’s costs even if they win, though they would be likely to be awarded compensation payable by the organisation. Solicitors’ fees would again depend on the nature of the claim, the volume of documents, number of witnesses, whether you want to defend it all the way to the final hearing, and whether the employee is represented. Defending a claim against a litigant in person can increase costs.

As with employees, your fees will depend on how early you’ve involved us.  If we’ve been involved prior to dismissal, we’ll already have advised on strategy based around how much risk the business was prepared to take on, and whether you really want to defend all the way to a hearing or if your preference is to reach an earlier deal.  As such, you’ll already have an idea of strategy and anticipated fees before the claim is even received.

Can I go straight to tribunal?

No, you have to go through Acas Early Conciliation before you can actually make a claim to the employment tribunal. The idea is to give the parties another opportunity to settle the claim and avoid tribunal proceedings.

If you’re determined to bring a claim – or as an employer, to defend a claim to the hearing – then you can opt to end Early Conciliation without trying to reach a deal.  There are pros and cons of doing this.

How long does it take to get an Employment Tribunal hearing?

It used to be said that it should take about 6 months, perhaps up to 12 months in complex cases, to reach a final merits hearing from the point at which a claim is submitted.  Unfortunately, the Employment Tribunals are suffering a considerable backlog, which was already there before the pandemic made it worse.  It can mean waiting for 2 or even 3 years for a final merits hearing.

This does no one any favours – the parties don’t have a resolution, memories fade, and it means lawyers have to spend time refreshing their memories when it can be months since they last looked at the matter. But it is a consideration for both parties involved in a potential claim – we will always ask whether you are happy to wait for a long time to get a result, or is there a value to you in reaching a deal rather sooner?

Why instruct our Employment Solicitors?

We will fully review your situation at the point you instruct us, discuss what you want to achieve, and work with you to build a strategy to get you there.  We will examine the chances of success, or of successfully defending the claim. We will absorb the stress and work required to communicate with the other party, and to draft your claim or defence, and ensure that you comply with the various deadlines that apply to employment tribunal claims. We manage all preparations for the steps that are required along the way (such as disclosing all relevant documents and preparing witness statements), and liaise with Barristers who will conduct hearings. We’ll keep you informed of anticipated fees throughout and monitor the cost/benefit of proceeding – for instance, we’ll advise on whether and when to make an offer to settle, and the pros and cons of reaching a speedy settlement for whatever amount is on the table.

We act for both employers and employees, so have breadth of experience on both sides of the table. We recognise that sometimes parties do want to fight on, and will support you whilst advising you on the options available and the risks involved. We do think that often the best solution is a deal that enables both parties to draw a line under things and move forward without the cost, stress, delays, hassle and uncertainty involved in going through to a hearing.

In short, we’re here to help.

Need more help?

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

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