The Government has announced reforms to the employment tribunal rules of procedure following on from a review undertaken by Mr Justice Underhill. Most of Underhill’s recommendations have been accepted with a view to making the tribunal procedure operate more efficiently. The responses won’t bring about any changes for employers in practical terms but hope to make the process more understandable for those who work within it.

One of the recommendations was for lay representatives to be able to claim costs at the same rate as claims for preparation time, which currently stands at £32 per hour (£33 per hour from April). An argument that lay representatives costs should be calculated at the same rate as lawyers was refused because it was deemed that lay representatives do not offer the same level of service.

It is a fact that tribunals mean a lay out of money for almost all individuals involved, whether in terms of representation, preparation or awards.

The Government puts the average cost of an employment tribunal to the employer at a huge £3900. This will include the actual cost of representation, plus the notional cost of the management time spent dealing with a claim e.g. providing the written response to the claim; dealing with requests for details from the claimant; locating the relevant evidence; time spent at tribunal; compiling witness statements etc.

The cost to the taxpayer for each claim made is estimated to be £1900. It’s no wonder then that the Government are taking significant action to reduce the burden on the employment tribunal system and the cost to the country. Such measures include raising the service qualification for unfair dismissal from one year to two years and increasing awareness of other dispute resolution methods, such as mediation.

By Nicola Mullineux

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