Tribunal changes face problems

An employment lawyer from Sheffield has called for greater use of conciliation before Employment Tribunal hearings as a way of avoiding claimants being faced with punitive fees if they lose.

Matthew Brain says the introduction of fees to discourage spurious claims is a good idea in theory, but could be fraught with practical problems.

"The difficulty is that most claimants in an Employment Tribunal are out of work, and there is a natural concern that claimants may be unable to pay a fee if it is set too high," said Mr Brain, a lawyer with Irwin Mitchell.

"Conversely, if the fee is too low, it will not have the deterrent effect that employers are hoping for."

Mr Brain suggests requiring ACAS or some other similar body, to mediate before claims go to a Tribunal and rule whether any party has acted unreasonably.

"This process could then be used to determine whether a fee should be payable when a claim is lodged, as well as in deciding on any costs consequences," added Mr Brain.

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