Tribunals poised to get tough

Tribunals are to be given powers to impose cost penalties of up to £10,000
on individuals bringing unreasonable or vexatious claims against employers.

Long-awaited proposals to relieve pressure on the employment tribunal system
will also allow panels to strike out ill-founded claims they consider to have
no real chance of success. They will also raise the deposit on "weak"
cases from £150 to £500. Other changes are to be introduced to help tribunals
improve case management so that claims are dealt with more quickly and fairly.

"I am concerned there are too many weak cases in the system causing
significant delays for those with genuine claims. They also place unacceptable
burdens on businesses and the taxpayer," said Trade and Industry Secretary
Stephen Byers, announcing the proposals.

Tribunal caseloads have been rising by 10 to 15 per cent a year recently to
a new record of nearly 104,000 in 1999/2000.

Claims have risen across the board, even over long-established rights,
according to the figures, despite the fact that the median award has held
steady at £2,500 for several years.

As well as the increase in penalties, tribunals will for the first time be
able to take into account the unreasonable behaviour of claimants’
representatives when awarding costs. Draft amendments to tribunal rules of
procedure are due to be published in the new year and are due to come into
force in spring 2001, subject to consultation and parliamentary approval.

Byers also promised regulations to implement the delayed Acas arbitration
scheme for unfair dismissal would be introduced "shortly".

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