Employment tribunals could be set to “soar” following a landmark Supreme Court ruling, however malicious claimants could still face penalties, a leading solicitor has warned.
Nigel Daniel, a specialist in employment law at CJCH Solicitors, has spoken out following the decision to make charging fees for bringing employment tribunals unlawful.
The Supreme Court ruled the Government was acting unconstitutionally when it introduced the fees of up to £1,200 in 2013, and ordered it to repay up to £32 million to claimants.
The solicitor, who has over 23 years’ experience in employment law, said the judgement would have wide-ranging implications for both businesses and staff.
Mr Daniel said while the decision would be welcome news for employees who feel victimised but cannot afford rising legal costs, it could remove “vital barriers” protecting firms against false claims.
“This ruling will obviously have a significant impact across the employment workforce – with the effects varying drastically between employer and employee.
“For staff members who feel persecuted in the workplace and are potentially deterred from bringing claims due to excessive costs, this will finally enable them to pursue the legal justice they deserve.
“However, the ruling will also be rightly concerning for employers who may feel they are now vulnerable to numerous malicious claims from within their workforce. This could also spark fears that they cannot discipline staff within guidelines without a resulting employment tribunal.”
Mr Daniel warned that the judgement could result in “soaring employee claims” and a reversal of the 79% decline seen in tribunal numbers after fees were first introduced in 2013.
“While many claimants may now be considering bringing a case against an employer, we have a duty to advise them of potential penalties if their case is malicious. As this is now in the early stages, there may need to be more clarity on this going forwards, in order to strike a balance between supporting the rights of staff, and protecting businesses.”
However, while the judgement has been labelled as potentially detrimental to employers, CJCH’s head of commercial law Gareth Thompson, claimed it could actually enhance employee training and development proving to be significantly beneficial to businesses and staff in the long term.
“Employers could now assess their recruitment processes to ensure they take on the right people in the first place. They will also review their training and appraisal policies, to ensure they become meaningful and valuable staff members.
“They might also consider giving them representation on management boards, having regular meetings to share knowledge, air issues, and invite suggestions. They could also create imaginative reward schemes to incentivise employees and give them a vested interest in the business.
“All businesses require to create a positive and productive working environment is good management practice.”