Employment tribunal claims see 'dramatic' rise as downturn bites

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  • Since their introduction last year, fees for the use of the Employment Tribunal service have proved controversial, with the trade union Unison even challenging the introduction of these fees in the High Court, but one year on, what has been the real impact of these fees? The government implemented the Employment Tribunal fees in England & Wales to try to reduce the numbers of supposed “spurious2 claims being presented and introduced a two tier fee system depending on the type of dispute you were bringing against your employer. If you are bringing a claim for unpaid wages or similarly more straightforward claims the fee is £390 and for more complex claims such as unfair dismissal, the cost is £1,200 if they go all the way to a hearing. The impact of these fees on the number of claims has been dramatic. Sex discrimination claims have fallen by a staggering 90%, closely followed by a 74% reduction in unfair dismissal claims and unfair wage deductions. However, this is not the full picture. Early conciliation was introduced this year meaning that all claims have to go through mediation before heading to the Employment Tribunal, but this new process cannot explain this sharp fall in these types of cases. There is the very real danger that workers are being priced out of making a genuine claim and as a result, there is a failure in access to justice for everyone regardless of their income. So what does this mean for you if you think you have a genuine claim against your employer where you are employed in England or Wales? Does this new system offer fair protection for employees or just offer protection for employers? In reality, unless you can find the money to make your claim within 3 months then you are likely to be priced out of making a claim. There is an opportunity to apply for fee remission where you can demonstrate that you are unable to pay but this is not certain. It does seem that this new system has deterred employees from brining genuine claims and this stark reduction in claims can only strengthen Unison’s case currently waiting for a decision from the High Court. For more information about this article or any aspect of our Employment & Equality Law solutions,  please call Colin Foote on 0845 834 0840
  • Most employers understand the importance of fostering good working relationships with their employees, but things can and do go wrong in certain circumstances. Where an employee feels that the employer has acted unfairly, they can take their employer to a Tribunal. The Industrial Tribunals and the Fair Employment Tribunal in Northern Ireland (IT/FET) are like courts and operate in a similar way, however the rules on timing with work disputes are quite strict as usually you must apply to the tribunal within three months of either finishing your job or the problem occurring at work. Before you consider taking your employer to the IT/FET, you must firstly try to resolve the dispute internally with your employer which may include a grievance or an appeal against a decision taken by your employer. In England & Wales, you must also now enter into Early Conciliation through ACAS and if this doesn’t work, ACAS will provide you with a certificate to send to the Employment Tribunal when you submit your claim. Early Conciliation does not eat into the three month deadline, however, as any time taken during Early Conciliation negotiations is added back on if the process is unsuccessful. Before commencing your claim, it is important to get legal advice to ensure that your claim has merit and that your employer did act outside of the law. If not, you may have paid fees or legal costs that you cannot get back. If you win your claim you can ask the Tribunal to order your employer to pay any fees and costs which you have incurred, however, they may not make that order. If you settle before hearing, it would be sensible to negotiate payment of any fees and costs as part of your settlement. The first step is to complete the ET1 Claim Form. This can be done online or via a paper form. It should be sent to the Tribunal and in England & Wales it should be processed with the payment of your fees. These fees do not apply in Northern Ireland. Your employer is given 28 days from receipt of your claim form to respond and if they don’t, the judge may decide your case without any hearing at all. Where your employer does respond, you may be asked to attend a meeting with the judge to decide the date and time of the hearing and how long it will last. In England & Wales, there is an additional fee to be paid for a case that goes all the way to a hearing and your specialist employment lawyer will ensure that they have all the documentation and witnesses they need to proceed with the hearing on your behalf. Your specialist employment lawyer will speak for you at the hearing and on completion you will be advised of the outcome or following the hearing in the post. If you win your employer may need to give you your job back and/or will have to pay you compensation. If you lose, you can appeal the decision in certain circumstances or ask the tribunal to review the case again. In these circumstances, your employment lawyer will give you advice on what to do next. For more information about this article or any aspect of our employment & equality law solutions, please call Colin Foote on 0845 834 0840 (there is no charge for initial telephone discussions).
  • A law firm that has brought claims against Uber and Deliveroo over their employment practices says the Gym Group may have legal questions to answer over the contracts they offer personal trainers. It comes after MP Frank Field, chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, on Thursday labelled the fitness chain’s working practices “egregious” and “dubious”. According to the MP, a whistleblower highlighted the terms of the company’s policy when signing up “freelance independent personal trainers”. According to reports, the trainers are signed up as “self-employed” but they must give notice of holidays, wear a uniform at all times, work to specific shift patterns, are restricted with regard to setting prices and must give notice of the termination of the agreement. Michael Newman from law firm Leigh Day which took Uber to the employment tribunal and is involved in claims being brought against Deliveroo said that the Gym Group may be in breach of the law in how they categorise people who work for them. “It may be the case that once again we have a company looking to avoid its responsibilities by using bogus ‘self employment’ resulting in the denial of basic employment rights for those workers,” Mr Newman said. “We have seen such behaviour before and everything which has been reported suggested this could also be the case in regard to how the Gym Group treat people who have to behave as workers but have none or only some of the benefits.” Mr Field said that the restrictions put on the trainers were “incompatible” with self-employment and that such practices are typically used to put “workers off claiming employment rights and protections they may be due”. He added: “This contract from Gym Group is the latest in a long line of examples highlighting dubious self-employed workforce models - and it is one of the most egregious examples I’ve seen to date. “It is packed full of clauses that clearly suggest Gym Group’s 'freelance independent personal trainers’ are nothing of the sort, but are in fact workers entitled to the rights and protections that come with that status.” A spokesperson for The Gym Group said: “We note the letter from the Rt Hon Frank Field MP. “We take the feedback of our self-employed personal trainers who we partner with extremely seriously and we will be happy to co-operate and respond in full to the issues raised by the requested deadline of 10 November.”
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Employment tribunal claims see 'dramatic' rise as downturn bites
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