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Tribunal Fees Might Do More To Harm Small Businesses Warns

Thursday, 06 October 2011

That's because forcing staff to pay up to £1,250 to bring a case to an employment tribunal is unlikely to deter spurious claims, but may make small businesses more complacent about the way they handle employment law, claim lawyers from business support specialist, ELAS.


Peter Mooney, the company's head of employment law, said: "We need to see the detail on these proposals, but at the moment it looks like those who can't afford to pay the fees are going to have the fees waived anyway.


"More importantly, nobody who brings a case to tribunal does so thinking that their case is spurious. Of all the tribunals I have been to, every single person bringing the case has believed that they were the victim of unfair treatment.


"Placing a large upfront fee may deter some people, but not many. On the other hand, small businesses who cling to this like a comfort blanket will soon find that it offers them very little protection in the real world."


George Osborne used the Conservative Party conference in Manchester to announce plans to introduce fees of £250 to make a complaint to the tribunal service, and a further £1,000 if the case reaches the stage where it is listed for a hearing.


The Chancellor also outlined plans to extend the length of time employees must work in a job before they can claim unfair dismissal.


But neither change will have any great impact on small business, Mr Mooney warned.


"We have seen the length of time needed to qualify for unfair dismissal move up and down in the past. It has never had a significant impact in the past and it won't this time either.


"When it comes to the question of fees, however, there is a real risk that small businesses will become complacent, thinking that none of their staff will be able to afford to risk £1,250 on winning their case at tribunal, and that their staff consequently have fewer rights.


"It might make nice headlines but it's not true. Those who have been dismissed after between one and two years' service will try even harder to bring a case under different legislation - discrimination instead of unfair dismissal for example - while the fees don't change workers' rights at all."


For more information about ELAS's employment law services visit www.elas.uk.com or telephone 08450 50 40 60.