Employees may foot bill for failed claims

Employees will have to pay to take their employers to tribunal if they are deemed to have a weak case, it has emerged.

Personnel Today has learnt that DTI plans to overhaul the tribunal system to crack down on frivolous claims include demanding a deposit to start a case that the tribunal service believes will fail, or warning claimants they will have to pay costs if it does fail.

A DTI spokesman confirmed that the Government is in agreement with the proposals made by the CBI last week (News 9 May).

“We are planning to allow tribunals to dismiss the weakest cases when they don’t think there is a case to answer,” he said.

Dominic Johnson, head of employee relations at the CBI, said staff will be given more help and advice by the service on whether they have a legitimate claim under the law.

Applicants who do not have a clear grievance will be asked to explain their claims and could be asked to go to a pre-tribunal hearing to explore it further.

The tribunal chairperson can ask for a deposit or warn that costs could be incurred if a convincing case has still not emerged.

“What the chair can’t do is strike the case out. That would infringe the right to a fair hearing under the forthcoming Human Rights Act,” said Johnson.

“But they can say if you do want to go on and waste the time and the money of the tribunal service and the employer, you must put something of yours at risk.”

There is widespread support for streamlining the tribunal system.

TUC senior policy officer Sarah Veale said it was important that weeding out procedures were easier to use as there were powers for tribunals in place which were not being used.

She added it was also important to look at why internal company grievance procedures were not preventing tribunal claims.

Mike Gooddie, HR director at GNER said anything to deter the rising tide of frivolous claims would be welcome, but the changes must not put off legitimate claimants.

He added that it will put extra pressure on the skills and expertise of chairmen.

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