Last year the High Court rejected UNISON's attempted judicial review of the decision to introduce those fees. The Court of Appeal also rejected UNISON’s case, but UNISON has recently been given permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. The introduction of fees has reduced the number of tribunal claims dramatically but those successfully brought may now result in more expensive awards.
The Issue – More expensive awards
Compensation awards for unfair dismissal and redundancy payments are subject to statutory caps which are reviewed annually. This year the increase is from 6 April 2016 and matches inflation as measured in September 2015.
(Discrimination compensation and some specific unfair dismissal awards, e.g. an employee dismissed unfairly or selected for redundancy for reasons connected with health and safety or public interest disclosure (whistleblowing) are not subject to a statutory cap and are unaffected).
For unfair dismissals effective on or after 6 April 2016:
- The cap on the unfair dismissal compensatory award rises to £78,962 or 52 weeks' pay
- The cap on the maximum amount of "a week's pay" increases to £479
- The minimum basic award for some automatically unfair dismissals (e.g. those based on health and safety, working time or trade union membership) increases to £5,853.
For redundancies with effective dates of termination on or after 6 April 2016:
- The cap on the maximum amount of "a week's pay" also increases from to £479.
- The cap on the maximum statutory redundancy increases from to £14,370.
Unfair dismissal awards are still subject to either an uplift or a reduction of up to 25% where either an employer or employee fails unreasonably to follow the ACAS Code on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures. The overall statutory cap still applies even if an uplift is made.
To avoid employment tribunal claims, businesses should:
- Ensure adherence to the guidelines in the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures as recently updated
- Adopt an equal opportunities policy to reduce the risk of liability for discrimination claims
- Communicate such policies to all staff, provide training in and monitor their fair operation
- Train managers to conduct disciplinary and grievance procedures fairly
- Obtain specialist legal advice before dismissing or taking action to enforce employment rights.