Further news has been published about the plans by the coalition government to step up employment reform. As well as increasing the potential award of costs from £10,000 to £20,000 the government also intends to allow tribunals toimpose financial penalties on employers found to have breached employment rights. This is atroubling development for both employees and employers alike. It should be remembered however that costs are not commonly awarded in the employment tribunal with awards being the exception rather than the rule. It also is uncommon for a party to recover the entirety of its legal fees from a claimant. The situation with fines is different and this applies to employers only. The government expects penalties will be imposed where the breach involves unreasonable behaviour such asnegligence or malice. The financial penalty will be half the amount of the total award with a minimum threshold of £100 and an upperamount of £5,000.Thepenalty will be reducedif payment is made within 21 days.
Other measures contained in the government’s response include:
- increasing deposit orders payable byclaimants where the case has no reasonable prospects from£500 to £1,000
- increasing the limit for cost awards from £10,000 to £20,000
- requiring witness statements (where provided) to be taken as read (meaning that the witnesses won’t have to read them aloud) unless a judge or tribunal directs otherwise