Tribunal costs plan backed by HR directors – losing staff should pay costs

Leading HR directors have backed a proposal suggesting staff that lose tribunal claims should be forced to pay the employers’ costs.

Shadow business secretary Alan Duncan last week told Personnel Today that tribunals never awarded costs against the person who applied, but under a Tory government they would.

Helen Giles, HR director for homelessness charity Broadway, welcomed the recommendation, adding she would like to see a system of compulsory and non-refundable deposits for all staff looking to bring a discrimination claim.

She said: “The courts have cases with little merit but public policy [means] that they don’t ever throw out a discrimination claim, however spurious it is.

“To start making people have to pay would be a huge deterrent. We would see the ludicrous amounts of public funds wasted on five to 10-day hearings come down and employers could carry on business more efficiently and effectively.”

Figures in the Acas annual report earlier this year revealed some 227,000 employment tribunal claims were brought in 2007-08, compared with 180,000 in 2006-07, with courts largely being swamped by an increase in equal pay claims.

Robert Ingram, HR director of management consulting firm Capgemini, added there should be better screening of time-wasting claims. “Sometimes the tribunals will find it difficult to say no to a hearing when clearly there is nothing to answer. It ought to be thrown out before it is heard,” he said.

Sara Edwards, HR and change director at retailer Liberty, said: “Costs should be applied in those cases that are submitted without any particular grounds or merit.”

But a spokesman for the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform said: “The introduction of automatic award of costs will deter individuals from bringing claims to tribunal for fear of being left with a large bill if they are unsuccessful.”

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