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Entries in Employment Tribunal (12)

Wednesday
Jul262017

Employment tribunal fees unlawful

   The Supreme Court has declared this morning that fees for those bringing employment tribunal claims have been ruled unlawful and will be nullified. As a result, the government will possibly have to repay up to £32m to claimants in respect of fees paid between 2013 and now.

The decision follows the appeal by the trade union Unison who argued that the fees prevented many workers from getting ‘access to justice’.  The Supreme Court referred to the Government’s review on the impact of fees (discussed in our previous blog on 1 February 2017).  There has been ‘a sharp, significant and sustained fall’ ‘in the number of employment tribunal claims since the introduction of fees representing a reduction of 66–70% of cases. The proportion of claimants receiving fee remission was also lower than the government had anticipated. On this evidence the Court concluded that many people found the fees unaffordable and had been denied access to justice.

With fees ranging between £390 (Type A) and £1,200 (Type B) for a case to be heard at a hearing, the Supreme Court also concluded that it was indirectly discriminatory to charge higher fees for type ‘B’ claims (which include discrimination claims) than type ‘A’ claims (such as unpaid wages). It was found that a higher proportion of women bring Type B claims than Type A and that they were placed at a particular disadvantage compared to men; and it could not be objectively justified why Type B claims were more expensive.

What happens next?

  • Anyone lodging a tribunal claim will not be required to pay the tribunal fees. Those who have paid the fees (be it Claimants or Respondents) will have to watch this space in terms of how to reclaim fees (if possible).
  • Whether the number of claims will rise as sharply as they fell on the introduction of the fees regime is something Employers, ACAS and the Employment Tribunals will be watching very carefully. If they do, significant resources will need to be put back into the system to avoid a further backlog of claims.  
  • The Court’s decision does not prohibit the government imposing fees in the future as the decision relates to the level of fees being unlawful and preventing access to justice. Further consultation on this is likely to be necessary before any decision is taken.
  • Immediate attention is required by the Employment Tribunals Service for reprogramming the online claim form system and for them to rewrite the tribunal rules.
  • There is also the question concerning the amount of people who chose not to bring a claim due to the cost of the fees and whether they will seek to lodge their claims out of time. Although the answer the question is unknown, anyone in this position will need to act immediately to avoid prejudicing their chances.

If you have any questions regarding employment tribunals or any other employment matter please contact Greg Jones (gregjones@greene-greene.com ~ 01284 717446) or Angharad Ellis Owen (aellisowen@greene-greene.com ~ 01284 717453).

For more information on the services offered by Greene & Greene Solicitors please visit http://www.greene-greene.com and follow on Twitter @GreeneGreeneLaw.

Wednesday
Jul052017

Greene & Greene present Law Award at West Suffolk College

                      

West Suffolk College held its Celebration of Achievement Awards for 2017 in a large marquee in the college grounds on Friday 30 June. This annual event recognises students for their hard work and dedication to their chosen subjects.

Greene & Greene is proud of its association with West Suffolk College and sponsored its ‘Outstanding Student of the Year Business Management (Law)’ award for the second year. Angharad Ellis Owen, Employment Law Barrister at Greene & Greene, was delighted to present the award to Andrew Stokes for his hard work throughout the year, which was rewarded with excellent results.

Hospitality students from the College’s Edmunds restaurant catered for the gala dinner, with entertainment provided by the A Capella student group, Amado, and a choir from Conservatoire East.

If you have any questions regarding employment law matters please contact Angharad Ellis Owen (aellisowen@greene-greene.com ~ 01284 717453).  For more information on the services offered by Greene & Greene Solicitors please visit http://www.greene-greene.com/index.html and follow on Twitter @GreeneGreeneLaw.

Friday
Mar032017

Employment Tribunal Judgments Available Online

It’s been a long time coming, but the Employment Tribunal has finally been dragged into the modern age. The online database of Employment Tribunal Judgments in England, Wales and Scotland is now live.

In the past, access to Employment Tribunal Judgments was restricted to those willing to search the dusty records held in Bury St. Edmunds (for England and Wales) or Glasgow (for Scotland). The new online database provides free and instant access to Judgments. The change is likely to have a significant impact on whether grievances are pursued in the Employment Tribunal, and the way in which employers vet potential employees.

A selection of decisions from 2015, 2016 and 2017 are currently listed on the database, with all future Judgments to be added as soon as they are publicised. It is not yet known whether existing Judgments will be added. It is likely that the number of records involved may make the task almost administratively impossible.

Perhaps the most useful tool on the new database is the ability to carry out a free text search. This means that employers will be able to search for an individual by name. Likewise an employee or other organisation can search to see if the employer has been involved in previous Tribunal proceedings.

From an employee perspective this may be an incentive to attempt to settle the claim before issuing proceedings. Employees are unlikely to want prospective employers to know that they have issued proceedings against their previous employer. However, if that employee’s previous claim was for discrimination they will be protected from victimisation by the new employer. A rejection of the potential employee’s job application because of a previous discrimination claim would be unlawful. 

From an employer’s perspective the publication could affect their reputation. It is also possible that confidential or commercially sensitive information mentioned in evidence is referred to in the Judgment and made readily available online. This in turn may impact the employer’s recruitment and retention of staff. It also remains to be seen whether existing employees use the information to further their own grievances/claims against the employers, particularly in relation to discrimination claims.

It will be interesting to see whether this new initiative will encourage the parties to settle claims earlier to avoid their name appearing on the database.

If you have any questions regarding employment law matters please contact Angharad Ellis Owen (aellisowen@greene-greene.com ~ 01284 717453) or Greg Jones (gregjones@greene-greene.com ~ 01284 717446).   For more information on the services offered by Greene & Greene Solicitors please visit http://www.greene-greene.com and follow on Twitter @GreeneGreeneLaw.

Monday
Feb132017

Government Review of Fees in Employment Tribunals

Angharad Ellis OwenAngharad recently joined Greene & Green and is a Barrister specialising in Employment Law. In her first of many blogs to come she summarises the recent Government’s review of the introduction of fees in the employment tribunal.

Sir Oliver Heald, Minister of State for Justice states "there is no doubt that fees, alongside the introduction of the early conciliation service, have brought about a dramatic change in the way that people now seek to resolve workplace disputes. That is a positive outcome, and while it is clear that many people have chosen not to bring claims to the Employment Tribunals, there is nothing to suggest they have been prevented from doing so".

Review

The Government’s review concludes that the original objectives for introducing fees (in 2013) have broadly been met.   Those who use the employment tribunal system are contributing around £9 million annually in fees, transferring a proportion of the cost of the employment tribunals from taxpayers to users of the employment tribunal system.   

Following the introduction of fees there has been 'a sharp, significant and sustained fall’ in claims being presented.  In the first year after the introduction of fees there was a fall of 78% in the total number of claims presented. This fall has been much greater than originally expected. However, this is seen as a positive outcome by the Government.  

The Government accepts that the fees have discouraged some people from bringing employment tribunal claim; although it states that there is no conclusive evidence that they have been prevented from doing so.  In order to help those on low incomes (who are more likely to struggle to pay the fees) the Government proposes to increase the income threshold for a fee remission at broadly the same level of someone earning the National Living Wage.

Judicial Review

UNISON applied for a judicial review of the introduction of fees. In the Court of Appeal UNISON argued that the statistics (showing a drop in the number of claims submitted) demonstrated that fees were making it very difficult for a large proportion of claimants to enforce their rights. The case is due to be heard by the Supreme Court in March 2017.

If you have any questions in relation to employment tribunal proceedings or generally please do not hesitate to contact Angharad Ellis Owen on 01284 717453 or email aellisowen@greene-greene.com.  

Wednesday
Feb082017

Exciting Developments for the Employment Team at Greene & Greene

A new appointment, a new arrival and new seminars planned for 2017 in the Employment Law team at Greene & Greene Solicitors in Bury St Edmunds.

Angharad Ellis Owen, a Barrister who has specialised in employment law for 10 years, recently joined Greene & Greene from an Ipswich based firm.  Angharad will carry out a mix of contentious and non-contentious work, across a wide variety of business sectors and has significant experience in advising and handling employment tribunal claims, claims for unfair dismissal, whistleblowing, redundancy, sex, gender and disability discrimination and large scale equal pay claims.

Head of department, Selene Holden is eagerly awaiting the arrival of her second child and will shortly be starting a period of maternity leave.  Whilst Selene, who has been described by legal guides as ‘quick and competent’ and ‘very approachable’ is on leave, Greg Jones, Angharad and Senior Partner Chris Thomson will be continuing to guide clients on employment matters.

After a busy 2016, which saw training and updates delivered across the region, Selene and the team have been working on a series of events to compliment the firm’s main annual Employment Law Update, which has now been running for 20 years. 

For further information please click on Employment Law or if you would like to attend any of our events, please telephone Jools Windermere on 01284 717430, visit www.greene-greene.com and follow @greenegreenelaw.

Wednesday
Feb242016

Update on Holiday Pay Calculation

There has been much debate in recent years about how employers should calculate holiday pay and whether they need to include items such as overtime and commission.

In the latest instalment of a long line of cases the Employment Appeal Tribunal has confirmed that commission of the type Mr Lock earned should be taken into account when calculating holiday pay.

The facts of this case were as follows:

Mr Lock was employed by British Gas as a salesman.  He received a basic salary plus results-based commission which made up around 60% of his overall pay.

While on holiday Mr Lock received his basic salary and any commission earned during the previous period, which happened to be paid at that time.  However, since he was not working whilst on holiday, he could not generate any commission.  This meant he received less pay after a period of holiday, which he argued could deter him from taking holiday.

However, British Gas argued that they were complying with English law by paying Mr Lock his basic pay only while on holiday.

Ultimately the dispute ended up before the European Court of Justice, which confirmed that from a European Law perspective, commission of the type Mr Lock earned must be taken into account for holiday pay purposes. The question for the Employment Tribunal was whether English law could be interpreted in this way. The Tribunal concluded that it could and should be, but only in respect of the first 20 days of holiday each year (which is the amount of holiday prescribed under European law).

The Employment Appeal Tribunal has now confirmed the Employment Tribunal’s decision, although British Gas has stated that it will be appealing to the Court of Appeal.

So, where does this leave us? This case supports a trend in the case law which says that where there is an intrinsic or direct link to tasks which an employee is required to carry out and the payments they receive from their employer, those payments should be included in holiday pay. Whilst it seems highly unlikely to us that this principle will be successfully challenged on appeal, until we have a definitive ruling from the Supreme Court, the current uncertainty will remain. However, employees who believe that they may be owed holiday pay can still submit their claims to the Employment Tribunal and for this reason employers may wish to consider whether they should take action now to limit the risk of this happening.

If you would like to discuss how this decision affects you, please contact Selene Holden, Head of Employment Law at Greene & Greene (seleneholden@greene-greene.com ~ 01284 717436 ~ @selenecholden).  For more updates from Greene & Greene please follow us on Twitter @greenegreenelaw and LinkedIn at linkedin.com/company/greene-&-greene.