Alex Lock, partner at Beachcroft law firm in Bristol and editor of the Employment Lawyers Association Briefing journal has a piece published in this week's Law Society Gazette.
Some of the key extracts include - "There has been much talk in employment law circles over the past few months about two related issues: access to justice and reform of the tribunal."
Lawyers dealing with tribunal claims are expected to be up to date on the law, deal with complex issues of disclosure and fact, and arrive fully armed with written statements, agreed bundles, chronologies, lists of issues and agreed facts and skeleton arguments. Hearings are often several days or weeks long and are usually preceded by case-management discussions or pre-hearing reviews. All of this results in considerable cost: simple one-day cases may generate costs of £10,000, and complex cases considerably more.
At present, both parties, in general, bear their own costs. The employee who has been unfairly dismissed and rightly seeks redress in the form of compensation for his losses must meet the costs of doing so himself. Similarly, the employer wrongly accused of unlawfully discriminating against an employee will find himself put to considerable cost in proving he has done nothing wrong.
A grown-up debate means recognising that law and dispute resolution requires investment. Parties should, of course, be encouraged to settle their disputes without the need for a court or tribunal hearing. In this age of reform, I propose that the tribunal introduce a part 36-type arrangement where costs are awarded if the offer made (by either party) is not beaten at a hearing. This would provide a positive encouragement to explore settlement and would fairly apportion costs if the case required a hearing."
I am inclined to agree with Alex Lock - Do you?