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9-06-2014

Claimants in employment cases are turning to county courts rather than pay higher fees for employment tribunals, a former tribunals chief said last week, casting doubt on figures showing a dramatic fall in claims.

David Latham, former president of Employment Tribunals (England and Wales), said it is ‘unclear’ whether the claims total has plummeted by the official figure of 80% (see Law Society Gazette).

Since July 2013, tribunal fees have started at £160, rising to between £230 and £950 for further hearings. In contrast, county court fees start at £35 and increase incrementally in proportion to the sum of money being claimed.

Claims such as those for unpaid wages and wrongful dismissal claims (failure to pay notice periods) can be brought as breach of contract claims in the county court.

Traditionally claimants have shied away from county court claims because of the greater risk of adverse costs orders being made if the claim fails. Some claims can only be brought in an employment tribunal – such as those for unfair dismissal.

Since compensation for ordinary unfair dismissal is capped at the lesser of a year's salary or £76,574, it does seem likely that some lower paid employees are potentially being denied access to justice, because the fees regime means that it is cost prohibitive to bring low value cases.

Sarah Rushton (srushton@moonbeever.com)

This is intended for general information only and should not be considered as giving advice in relation to any individual case nor be taken as applying to any particular case. No liability is accepted for any such use of the information.

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