Tribunal use on the rise

By Max Goldbart, Wednesday 17 May 2017

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The BPIF has reported an increase in tribunal activity over the past year.

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Copley: some discrimination claims "may have no merit"

Head of BPIF Legal Anne Copley, who will be retiring at the end of this month, reported that in the past year the BPIF has advised employers on between 40 and 50 tribunal cases, an increase of around 15% on the previous year, all of which have been won by the employer.

There had been an initial drop-off from tribunal use after fees were introduced in 2013 to try and halt the practice of frivolous claims.

Research from the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) found 18 months after the introduction of the fees that 82% of people were being deterred from going to a tribunal due to cost.

Copley said: “There was a big drop-off when tribunal fees were introduced, a huge drop-off, and I’m guessing that time has passed and people are getting used to the new regime and are more likely to be putting in claims.” 

BPIF HR adviser Linda Harrison said she had noticed an increase in tribunals where discrimination was cited as a form of complaint.

Copley added: “There are nine potential discrimination claims, ranging from disability through to sexual orientation, and they immediately make cases much more complicated and therefore if you can, as a claimant, find a discrimination angle then people will put them in. They may have no merit.”

The fees for tribunals differ depending on the seriousness of the claim. For cases related to unpaid wages, redundancy pay or breach of contract, claim fee is £160 and hearing fee is £230. For unfair dismissal, equal pay, discrimination or whistleblowing, claim fee is £250 and hearing fee is £950.

Before putting in a claim, former employees have to apply for an early conciliation certificate from ACAS, which sometimes leads to a settlement procedure before the case is brought to tribunal. 

BPIF members get free representation and its HR advisers explain the tribunal process and the risks involved, deal with ACAS on the employer’s behalf and provide guidance on investigating issues promptly. 

In its manifesto launched this week, Labour has vowed to scrap tribunal fees, with a number on the left calling out Theresa May’s pledge to improve workers’ rights by pointing out that she voted to introduce the fees in 2013.

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