It is starting to happen – exactly as I predicted it would earlier this year, when the Supreme Court ruled that cases could once again be brought before an employment tribunal without any need for the applicant to pay any kind of fee.
Earlier this week, an employment lawyer told me he is struggling to get responses from Croydon Employment Tribunal Service because their case load has soared from 20 claims, raised in a typical week when fees applied, to 2,000 a week now it’s a free-for-all once again.
If that scenario is being replicated across the country, then there’s definitely trouble ahead… for the system itself, and for the many thousands of employers who will be faced with an ongoing torrent of costly, stressful and often-bogus attempts to win an employment tribunal pay out.
There will, however, be one group that wins: the lawyers. Consider the facts:
The introduction of tribunal fees saved UK PLC at least £180m a year in the legal cost of defending spurious claims. Conversely, this meant employment lawyers lost £180m worth of business defending them.
That’s the equivalent of some 2,000 lawyers looking for something new to fill their days – and their boots. What’s more, steps have also been taken over the last few years to cap legal fees on personal injury claims, meaning even more lawyers are looking for new ways to pay the bills.
Then, just as things were looking desperate, the Supreme Court threw a lifeline to this sector of the legal profession, and the employment tribunal cash-go-round is back in full swing. Add to this some headline-claiming David vs. Goliath cases such as Uber, Hermes, Pimlico Plumbers, and Deliveroo to further stir the water, and you have a perfect storm geared towards ‘workers’ rights’.
Think back, the aim of tribunal fees, along with extending the employment period before staff could claim unfair dismissal to two years, was to protect employers from spurious claims, and to de-risk employment, encouraging firms to hire additional staff. From my experience, and looking at employment figures you have to say it worked.
Already at Hudson Contract, we are seeing a huge increase in activity with no-win-no-fee lawyers and unions once again playing the employment tribunal card at every opportunity. Experience tells us that if we deal with things correctly, work within our robust processes, and treat people fairly, we have little to fear other than an increased workload which we are well-equipped to deal with.
Our clients, too, can relax, because they are fully protected by Hudson Contract: we fight any employment tribunal cases on their behalf, picking up the stress and eliminating all financial risk – and we win.
I have also helped new clients deal with claims that date back to their pre-Hudson Contract days. This has taught me a lot.
For instance, one claimant sent me an email meant for his eyes only in error. It explained that while he had no genuine basis for a claim there was nothing to lose, so he might as well fire off a letter to see if his employer could be pushed into offering a financial settlement, in order to avoid the stress, strain and high costs of a case that went to tribunal.
From now on, though, I hope our clients will continue to be vigilant, treating sub-contractors like sub-contractors, using the Hudson Contract processes correctly, and by directly employing those over whom they need control and an exclusive personal service.
As for those who use self-employed labour without a robust set of procedures in place, they can now dread a call from their local union representative almost as much as they do from HMRC.
Managing Director, Hudson ContractMore from this expert
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