Transparency in Price and Service
The Solicitors Regulation Authority has published Transparency Rules to ensure consumers have the information they need to make an informed choice of legal services providers, including understanding what the costs may be in relation to certain matters.
FEES FOR EMPLOYMENT TRIBUNAL WORK (UNFAIR AND WRONGFUL DISMISSAL CASES)
Range of Costs
As an approximate guide to our fees for bringing and defending unfair and wrongful dismissal claims in the Employment Tribunal, please see below:
Simple case: £25,000-40,000 excluding VAT. (VAT is currently charged at 20% but VAT rates can change periodically. Therefore £25,000 excluding VAT equates currently to a fee of £30,000).
Medium complexity case: £40,000-80,000 excluding VAT
High complexity case: £80,000-250,000+ excluding VAT
Factors that can make a case more complex include:
- The nature of the claim: Where the unfair dismissal claim is brought together with other heads of claim such as those under the Equality Act (discriminations), protected disclosure (whistle blowing) , this will place the case in the medium complexity or high complexity category.
- The number of documents: In a straightforward, simple case, the documentation is likely to run to less than a small ring binder, whilst in a complex case, the documents may extend to several ring binders.
- Involvement of foreign language communications: Where a foreign language is spoken at the workplace, the complexity of the case will increase including the need for translations and interpretations.
- The number of issues: A straightforward claim may be for unfair dismissal following an employee’s dismissal for redundancy involving few, if any, other employees. The complexity will be increased if multiple redundancies are involved and consultations have been undertaken with employee representatives. Similarly if the employee’s claim involves more than unfair dismissal, perhaps involving other claims such as discrimination or whistle-blowing.
- The number of witnesses: In a simple case, the employee and a member of the employer’s management team may be the only witnesses. However, the costs are likely to increase and the case become more complex if additional witnesses are involved, each of whom will need to be interviewed and whose statements will need to be drafted.
- Approach of the other party: If the approach of the opposing party is obstructive, or their disclosure of documents or other information is incomplete, or they refuse to enter into reasonable agreements as to the conduct of the case, requiring additional time to be spent negotiating and possibly making applications to the Tribunal to help resolve any impasse.
- Amendments: If it is necessary to make or defend applications to amend claims, or provide further information about existing claims.
- Litigants in person: Defending claims against litigants in person, who may be unfamiliar with Tribunal procedures and who unwittingly fail to comply with the relevant procedural steps.
- Costs Application: Managing or defending a costs application.
- Preliminary hearing: If a preliminary hearing is needed, perhaps to test a point of law ahead of the main hearing, or to determine issues such as whether the Claimant is really an employee, or is disabled (if this is not agreed between the parties).
- Number of Dates: If a Tribunal hearing is adjourned either in advance or part way through, or the Tribunal decides to deal with the merits of the claim separately from the amount of compensation, necessitating additional trial dates.
The fees set out above covers all of the following key stages of a claim:
- Taking clients’ instructions, reviewing the papers and advising on the merits and likely compensation (this is likely to be revised throughout the matter and is subject to change to take account of new information or documentation)
- Entering into pre-claim conciliation where this is mandatory to explore whether settlement can be reached
- Preparing a claim or response
- Reviewing and advising on a claim or response from the other party
- Exploring and negotiating settlement
- Preparing or considering a schedule of loss
- Preparing a bundle of documents and exchanging documents with the other party and agreeing a bundle with them
- Interviewing witnesses, drafting statements and agreeing content with the witnesses
- Reviewing and advising on the other party’s witness statements
- Preparing trial bundle, including pagination, index etc.
- Agreeing list of issues, a chronology and/or cast list if required
- Instructing counsel to attend trial
- Preparation for and where appropriate, attendance at a Final Hearing.
The stages set out above are an indication of what may be involved in pursuing or defending a wrongful or unfair dismissal claim from start to finish and, if some of the stages above are not required, the fee will be reduced. Conversely, if additional stages are needed, such as preparation for and attendance at a preliminary hearing, or making applications for the other party to produce additional documents or information, the fee may increase.
Services Not Included
Our fee ranges set out above are for the conduct of the actual litigation in the Employment Tribunal. They do not include providing detailed written advice on the merits (although in an early meeting with clients we will state our views on the merits and give a rough assessment of the level of recoverable compensation). Nor do they include preparing for or attending preliminary hearings, which in straightforward unfair dismissal claims are generally not required, or drafting letters before action on behalf of clients before litigation is commenced, or responding to such letters on behalf of employer clients. However we are always happy to provide cost estimates for such work.
Counsel’s Fees and Disbursements
Disbursements are costs related to a client’s matter that are payable to third parties. This could include court fees for example, albeit the government’s current system of charging fees to bring Tribunal claims has been ruled unlawful by the courts. We handle the payment of disbursements on our client’s behalf to ensure a smoother process, but may require the money to be paid to us upfront, before we pay the third party. This is especially the case when it comes to barrister’s fees – see below.
The most significant disbursement Employment Tribunal litigants are likely to face is the cost of barristers. Barristers (Counsel) are essentially expert trial lawyers. They are often engaged by solicitors, particularly in more complex cases, to provide advice, to draft or review pleadings (Claim Forms, Defences etc.) and to conduct the advocacy at the Final Hearing. In a simple unfair dismissal claim, a barrister may only be instructed for the final stages of a case and sometimes just to represent the client at the trial. In a more involved, multi-issue case, particularly if there are allegations of discrimination as well as unfair dismissal, or complex questions of law, barristers may be instructed with our clients’ consent, at a much earlier stage and may be more closely involved throughout the case.
Counsel tend to charge so-called “brief fees” to carry out discrete pieces of work, be it an advice on the merits, drafting a pleading or appearing at a hearing. The fees are agreed with the barrister’s clerk and the client before the work is undertaken. As a rough guide, so called “junior” barristers tend to charge between £200 and £400 per hour excluding VAT for their time, depending on their seniority and experience and the most senior barristers, (“Queen’s Counsel”) will charge considerably more. It is rare that Queen’s Counsel are instructed for unfair and wrongful dismissal cases however. A fixed brief fee will normally be negotiated for the conduct of a Final Hearing.
Other disbursements include:
- couriers – rarely more than £100 if the client and the solicitors for the other party are located in London and vicinities.
- translators– our solicitor is bilingual in English and Japanese, but where the case involves a large quantity of documents in foreign language for use in the litigation process, it is more efficient to use external translators for preparing English translations.
- medical experts – where claims involve disabilities, medical experts may be needed to give expert evidence.
- travelling expenses – which may include train fares, taxis, hotel costs depending on where the hearings, or any meetings outside our offices are taking place.
- we reserve the right to charge for large batches of copying which may be required if cases proceed all the way to a Final Hearing and trial bundles are needed for multiple parties. Any cost estimate we provide would furnish clients with details of the anticipated charges.
How Long Will the Litigation Last?
The time that it takes from our first meeting with a client until the final resolution of the matter depends largely on the stage at which the case is resolved. If a settlement is reached during pre-claim conciliation, the case is likely to take 2-4 weeks. If the claim proceeds to a Final Hearing, the case is likely to take 6-8 months, but the time is influenced by factors such as how many days the Final Hearing will last and the number of cases waiting to be listed at the relevant Employment Tribunal. This is, of course, just a very rough estimate and we would anticipate being able to give clients a more accurate timescale once we have more information and as the matter progresses.