Is the Increase in Tribunal Fees Stopping Employees Being Treated Fairly?

Employment tribunal fees were introduced on 29 July 2013. Fees start at around £160 to issue a Type A claim (such as unlawful deduction of wages or breach of contract) and £250 for a Type B claim (e.g. unfair dismissal and discrimination claims). A further hearing fee of £230 must be paid for Type A claims and £950 for Type B claims.

Is the increase in tribunal fees stopping employees from taking their employers to tribunal? Is this reluctance to stand up for what is due to employees allowing some employers to treat their staff unfairly?

Since these fees were established, the number of cases being heard at Tribunal has decreased. April to June 2014 shows an 81% drop in claims compared to the same period in the previous year. (Source:  Is this because too many employees can’t afford the fees, or is it just that they don’t want to have to pay the fees?

UNISON has been fighting to have the fees abolished since they were brought in and in August 2015 announced that it would take the case to the Supreme Court, after the Court of Appeal rejected its appeal. UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis said: “The decision is a huge disappointment and a major setback for people at work. Many unscrupulous employers will be rubbing their hands together in glee at the news. There is stark evidence that workers are being priced out of justice and it is women, the disabled and the low-paid who are being disproportionately punished. Our fight for fairness at work and access to justice for all will continue until these unfair and punitive fees are scrapped.”

Due to the Early Conciliation Scheme, anyone wanting to bring a claim to the Employment Tribunal must now contact ACAS first. The job of ACAS’s Early Conciliation Scheme is to help reconcile workplace problems before litigation is commenced. Initial indications suggest, according to the President of the Employment Tribunals (England and Wales), Brian Doyle, that Early Conciliation is likely to have had the same effect without the introduction of tribunal fees.

The Scottish Government announced recently that it intends to abolish fees for employment tribunals in Scotland. Should the same be done in England and Wales?

Long-Service Awards – The Best Reward?

Many employers use long-service awards to reward staff loyalty and encourage retention according to a recent XpertHR survey. The awards vary from small tokens of appreciation to significant enhancements to the employee’s pay and benefits package. They are particularly common in the manufacturing and production sector, where 81.6% of employers offer them. Many companies have a series of awards at 5, 10 and 15 or more years’ service.

Awards usually take the form of a cash payment or vouchers, although gifts such as champagne, plaques, a hotel stay or flowers are among the ways in which employers show recognition for service. Another approach is to give an additional day of annual leave either for that year only or from that point forward, which can be worth considerably more than the cash awards listed below. Typical key intervals and cash values of long-service awards are as follows:

  • Awards following one year’s service are rare, but firms often celebrate the occasion with cake. Some employers also mark years two and three of service.
  • The reward for five years’ service is commonly cash or vouchers. The median cash payment, from an extremely wide range from £10 to £3,500, is around £140.
  • After 10 years’ service, the range of cash payments is again very wide, with the median payment standing at £200 from a range stretching from £10 to £7,000.
  • At 15 years, cash payments range in value from £10 to £10,500 with the median at £300. Payments of £300 are also recorded at both the 20 and 25 year mark, although more generous leave entitlement awards are also common at these stages.

Only a small minority of employers make long-service awards at 30, 35, 40 or 50 years’ service.

Staff Discount Schemes

One in three employers offer staff a discount on their internal products or services, particularly in larger firms. Firms typically provide a discount of between 15% and 50%, with the median discount standing at 30%. Reductions to the costs of both goods and various services can have great value for employees while at the same time benefitting the company.

Some companies offer a combination of perks and regular discounts. For example, at one shoe retailer, employees get a free pair of shoes each season and a 50% discount on other purchases. At one law firm, employees receive free legal services up to a point and discounted services thereafter.

First-aid Payments

Around one in four employers pay an annual allowance to staff who train and take on the important role of a first-aider in their workplace. The median payment is £150 a year.

How do you thank your staff for their long term loyalty? If you’d like to talk about the best ways to reward your staff, call us on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email us.


The Latest News on Zero Hours Contracts

The Government has banned the right to include an exclusivity clause in Zero Hours contracts. This means that you can’t employ someone on a Zero Hours contract and then try to prevent that person from doing other work, or stop them from working without your consent.

The clause is now illegal, so if any of your employees have this clause in their contract, as their employer, you can no longer enforce it. The ban became legal on 26 May 2015.

Zero Hours contracts, when used correctly, are very effective, e.g. for students during holiday periods or seasonal work. These casual contracts allow employers to hire staff with no guarantee of work. They mean employees work only when they are needed by employers, often at short notice. Their pay depends on how many hours they work. A Zero Hours contract is generally understood to be a contract between an employer and a worker where the employer is not obliged to provide any minimum working hours, and the worker is not obliged to accept any work offered. Zero hours workers have the same employment rights as regular workers, although they may have breaks in their contracts, which affect rights that accrue over time. They are also entitled to annual leave, the National Minimum Wage and pay for work-related travel in the same way as regular workers.

Zero hours contracts can be used to provide a flexible workforce to meet a temporary or changeable need for staff.

Examples may include a need for workers to cover:

  • unexpected or last-minute events (e.g. a restaurant needs extra staff to cater for a wedding party whose original venue cancelled)
  • temporary staff shortages (e.g. an office loses an essential specialist worker for a few weeks due to bereavement)
  • on-call/bank work (e.g. one of the clients of a care-worker company requires extra care for a short period of time).

If you have staff with Zero Hours contracts and you’re not sure if you have the exclusivity clause in those contracts, contact us on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email us and we’ll talk you through it.