DTI to act on tribunal time-wasters

The DTI is poised to announce new measures to curb frivolous and vexatious claims to employment tribunals.

An announcement by Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers is expected before Christmas, but could be made as early as this week.

Byers is expected to extend significantly the rarely-used powers available to tribunals to deal with time-wasters. These include requesting a deposit if an employee insists on taking a weak claim to a full tribunal, or awarding costs against them if a panel finds in the employer’s favour.

The measures are expected to be broadly in line with recommendations made by the CBI earlier this year. They are also likely to address a number of concerns expressed by Personnel Today readers.

Dominic Johnson, head of employee relations at the CBI, said, "Stephen Byers strongly hinted at the CBI conference that the Government would be taking action. We hope that the detail of the DTI’s proposals reflects the business concerns that we put to Stephen Byers."

Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry has called for an increase in the maximum level of costs that can be awarded against an applicant from £500 to £5,000. Policy director Louise Beard said, "We welcome the radical reform of the tribunal process and we would expect the costs that can be awarded to rise significantly and the powers of chairmen to be used more rigorously."

She added, "Our members are facing increasing numbers of frivolous claims. An increase in the costs that can be awarded would deter people from putting in frivolous claims."

John Renz, HR director at City law firm CMS Cameron McKenna, said, "It is the process which costs us so much money – it means we have to take our eye off the ball and end up managing failure."

Survey: Would measures such as these help prevent frivolous claims? Vote online on the daily news page at www.personneltoday.com

By Helen Rowe

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