Don’t be intimidated by your employer – take legal advice!

Elizabeth Stephenson, a specialist in employment and trade union law at our London City office, explains how the realities of tribunal cost awards rarely match the fears some employers seek to exploit …   

liz_stephensonThe recently reported case of one of Alan Sugar’s former Apprentice winners, Stella English, shows that costs will only be awarded in rare cases in the tribunal. This means that, generally, each side will bear its own costs of running the case.

Although the claimant did not succeed in her claim, and the judge in this case allegedly said that her claim for constructive unfair dismissal ‘should never have been brought’, he found that it was not brought maliciously and the case did not merit an award of costs being made against her. Alan Sugar’s claim for £35,000 for his legal costs from her therefore failed.

We frequently come across cases where an un-represented claimant has been threatened with costs before our involvement. They are then put under pressure to withdraw their claim in exchange for an agreement by the employer not to pursue them for costs. This tactic is often used to intimidate claimants in circumstances where an award of costs would actually be unlikely. Unless you behave unreasonably or maliciously in bringing or pursuing your claim, or you pursue a hopeless case, a costs award against you is unlikely.

Don’t let the employer bully you even further: do take legal advice. 

Elizabeth Stephenson, Employment, Marcus Weatherby,
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