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If you win a case in the employment tribunal, you may be awarded money to compensate you for your employer’s actions. But fighting a case will typically involve costs. So, what are they, and how can you pay for them?
In July 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that tribunal fees were illegal. So, you no longer have to make a payment when you lodge a claim at an employment tribunal. In fact, you can also save money by lodging the case yourself, running it (doing all the paperwork between yourself and your employer) and presenting your case, in person, to the judge at the tribunal.
However, it is likely you will significantly increase your chance of success by getting some legal advice along the way. And aside from paying the solicitor/and or barrister for their time preparing and presenting the case, there are other costs. For example, you may have to pay for expert witnesses (such as a medical report to support your argument) and travel/accommodation expenses for witnesses.
Assessing the claim
There’s no point taking an employer to tribunal if you’re very unlikely to win, or if your legal costs outweigh what you’re awarded. As early as you can then, find an employment solicitor and ask what he or she reckons your chances are. Many solicitors will give you a bit of free initial advice as well as an idea of the likely costs for your individual case.
Some solicitors take cases on a no win, no fee basis, if the prospects of success are high. This means you sign a damages-based agreement, which says that if you lose, you can walk away without paying anything. But if you win, you pay a percentage – 30 per cent, say – of the award, to the solicitor in legal fees. This can work out more expensive than paying a solicitor an hourly rate or a fixed fee. However, it’s more affordable, and doable, if you will struggle to pay legal costs if you lose.
Help with fees
If you have legal expenses insurance (on your car or home policy, for example) this can help you meet the costs of an employment claim. An employment solicitor is likely to mention to you but even before you call, check your policy and see if the insurer will pay for legal advice.
There are also other ways to run a claim more affordably: if you are a member of a trade union, for example, it may provide a solicitor to run your case and give you advice and support. Many solicitors do pro-bono work, where they take on cases free of charge. Ask if there’s anyone available to do this for you at local firms, and check listings in your area, for charities and law centres, which take on pro-bono work.
*Joanne O’Connell is editor of https://www.employmentsolicitor.com/