Legal fees – affording your employment tribunal claim

You’ve experienced poor treatment at work – and understandably want advice and support from the best employment lawyer you can find, but for many people, this comes at a cost. As many top employment solicitors recognise, there’s an irony that exists that when you are at your most vulnerable, often out of work and with confidence at a low ebb following poor treatment at work, to access the Employment Tribunal system, you need to find money to afford your tribunal claim. 

In the news recently, or particular interest to employment law solicitors in London, has been the story of a number of casual workers at the National Gallery, London who have found themselves victims of poor treatment at work and have been selling art works inspired by those hanging in the National Gallery itself to fund their Employment Tribunal claim. Proceeds will be added to other funds raised through crowdfunding. The scale of the funds in question in that case may make you question whether you can afford your tribunal claim at all, so it’s worth understanding just what the legal fees and other costs are in a tribunal claim, and some ideas about funding.

Costs and legal fees in the Employment Tribunal

Following a couple of years when a regime of Employment Tribunal fees was in place, top London employment lawyers were delighted that Unison won their challenge and fees were scrapped. While a new fees regime may still be introduced, it is likely to be at a far more reasonable scale. From that perspective, with no fees to bring your claim, it is already easier to afford your Employment Tribunal claim.

While it is possible to bring an Employment Tribunal claim without a UK employment lawyer to support you, for many people, this is a vital step in the process. If you are a member of a union, you may find that your membership provides you with legal support, but for many without this protection, the only option is to seek legal advice elsewhere.

Free legal advice is available from some organisations such as the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, and in some cases, you may find that your home insurance or other insurance policy offers a degree of cover for legal fees. You may be able to access a ‘pro bono’ scheme for legal advice, or a community legal clinic. Check out whether you are close to a university with a law department which runs a legal advice clinic as you may be able to access initial advice here.

It’s important to check the extent of the support you can access through free legal advice schemes or those operated by an insurance company. You may find that you can have help and support to prepare and submit your claim, but this will not extend to cover the costs of attending a tribunal hearing to represent you.

Another key point to remember is that in most tribunal claims, you are tied to a tight 3 month deadline to submit your claim. Although the tribunal can extend this in some cases, waiting for free legal advice will probably not be a sufficient reason.

Legal advice from a top employment law firm

While the Employment Tribunal system was designed to be user friendly and easy to access, it has become the case that most claimants will need to obtain legal advice in order to present their case in the best light possible. While paying for a top employment law firm to represent you may feel like a big step, it’s important to remember that if you win your case, the other side may well be ordered to pay your legal costs. In addition, the complexities of employment law mean that if you want to have the best chance of success, working with recommended employment solicitors is the way to achieve this.

Your employment solicitors’ time will perhaps be your biggest cost in bringing an Employment Tribunal claim; in addition to this you may need to pay costs relating to correspondence with the solicitor acting for your employer and other costs – for example if you need a medical report, or other report as part of your evidence to prove your case. For very complex cases, or if your solicitor is not experienced at presenting in an Employment Tribunal, you may also need to engage a barrister for the hearing itself.

Many solicitors charge an hourly rate which means you will only be paid for time spent on your matter. A good employment lawyer will be able to understand what will be involved in your case from an initial meeting and give you an estimate of costs at the outset. You may have to pay for this initial meeting and advice, but this will usually be at a fixed fee with no obligation should you decide this is not for you. In some cases, the solicitor you want to work with may be able to offer a fixed fee for the work they will do for you; in other cases, talking to your solicitor about payment terms means that you will be able to budget for your legal costs from the outset. 

Be confident to shop around

Choosing an Employment Tribunal solicitor is one of the most important decisions - and investments - you will make so it’s important to choose someone you feel comfortable with and you feel will really listen to your issues and represent you. Ask questions, particularly about fees and costs and make sure you talk to 2 or 3 firms before making a decision. Good employment law firms will be happy to discuss all these issues with you and explain their payment terms so that you can understand what will be involved before you make a commitment. 

OTS Solicitors have wide ranging experience in all employment law matters including unfair dismissal, discrimination and settlement agreements. To talk to us about your employment law issue in confidence, and to set up an initial meeting, please telephone us on 0203 959 9123.

 

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