Employment Law Q&A

Hethertons’ Employment Law Team provide some answers to FAQs that they regularly get asked about employment law for individuals.

Employment Tribunals

I have heard that I would have to pay a fee for making a claim to an Employment Tribunal – I thought you could do it for free?

Not any more! Nowadays, anyone wanting to make a claim in the Employment Tribunal will have to pay a fee. The government’s thinking was that it would reduce the number of claims and will discourage ‘nuisance’ claims. It has certainly reduced the number of claims dramatically, and the debate continues about whether the fees are a barrier to justice.

Under the new rules, a worker is required to pay an issue fee when the claim is made and a hearing fee if the claim proceeds to a hearing.

The lower level fees are payable on claims including holiday pay, wages, notice pay and redundancy payments. Those cases carry an issue fee of £160 and a hearing fee of £230.

The higher level fees are payable on claims including unfair dismissal, equal pay, discrimination and whistleblowing. The issue fee is £250 and the hearing fee is £950.

If you are making more than one claim, for example, unfair dismissal and discrimination, only one fee is required. Also, if one of your claims is a lower level claim and one is a higher level claim, for example, unpaid holiday pay and unfair dismissal, then only the higher fee of the two is required.

But I have not found another job and cannot afford to pay any fees. What can I do?

If you can show that you are not able to pay the fees, you may not have to pay them at all or may only have to pay part of the fees. Factors that will be taken into account include your earnings, savings and capital assets such as shares and property (other than your main home).

Also, if you win your claim, the Tribunal could order your former employer to reimburse any fees you paid.

Settlement Agreements

Yesterday my boss called me in for an “off the record” conversation. He has offered me £3,000 provided I sign an agreement and leave by the end of the week. I need more time to think it over. What should I do?

The first thing to do is to ask your employer to give you more time to consider the proposals put forward. New laws came into effect on 29th July 2013 which deal with what are now known as Settlement Agreements. These used to be called Compromise Agreements. The new laws were introduced to make it easier for employers to have “protected conversations” with employees. These are conversations between an employer and employee about the ending of the employment relationship without those conversations being referred to later on in court or tribunal proceedings. Previously, employers could only have such “off the record” conversations in limited circumstances. This is obviously a big decision for you and it is understandable that you want more time to think about it. You should ask your employer for more time and tell him that the ACAS Code of Practice states that a minimum of 10 calendar days should be allowed.

This agreement my boss wants me to sign is called a Settlement Agreement. What is it and what happens if I sign it?

A Settlement Agreement is a legally binding document which sets out how much the employer is going to pay you. It has the effect of removing all your rights to take legal action, particularly in the Employment Tribunal, against your employer. This means that once it is signed by you and your employer, you can’t make any legal claims in respect of your employment or the ending of your employment. The types of claims you are prevented from making will be listed in the Agreement itself. In order for the agreement to be valid you must obtain independent advice from a solicitor or trade union official. Your employer would usually pay some or all of your legal fees for getting that advice.

The Team

Gillian Reid

Head of Department

Andrew Macaulay

Assistant Solicitor

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