Employment Tribunal: Range of costs
Costs and Costs Estimates
As a client, you will want to know the likely costs in involving a solicitor to assist you with your claim or defending an action. As you will understand, it is often difficult to gauge the amount of legal advice and assistance that will be required. Each case is different and has varying levels of complexity. It also depends on how much a client wants the lawyer to be involved in the case, and at what stage.
We charge on an hourly basis. Presently our employment dispute solicitor David Lees charges at an hourly rate £230 plus VAT.
Whilst there are no longer any Employment Tribunal fees to pay (such as claim form fees and hearing fees), if you instruct a solicitor you will have to pay for that advice. A key point to remember is that, unlike the civil courts (County Court, High Court, etc.), it is only in rare circumstances that you will obtain a costs order from an Employment Tribunal (to have the legal costs you have incurred paid by the other party) at the end of a case. This is even if you are 100% successful. This is an important consideration before incurring legal costs.
We would always advise our clients, right from the start, to check if they have Legal Expense Insurance before seeking legal advice. If they do, then they might be able to obtain all their legal advice for free.
Moreover, with employment disputes both parties are encouraged before and during your claim, to try and settle the matter. Indeed, it is compulsory to try and negotiate a settlement via ACAS under the Early Conciliation Scheme. If parties are willing to settle a matter reasonably, they can make considerable savings on potential legal costs; equally, if parties are unwilling to even consider settlement, then they are likely to incur considerable legal costs, if they have sought legal representation.
From our experience, often, claimant clients may only seek some advice on understanding their claim, the Employment Tribunal process, their next steps, and perhaps a letter to their employer seeking compensation and/or settlement. This usually takes around 2 to 3 hours work (£460 plus VAT to £690 plus VAT), perhaps more depending on the complexity. Once advised, claimant clients may look to continue with the claim themselves, or seek additional advice on certain aspects at different stages of the process (for example, in drafting their claim form and particulars of claim). Generally defendant clients may wish to seek longer term advice, perhaps all the way to the Final Hearing, to avoid time away from their businesses. However, each client’s approach is different.
General estimates of costs
An employment dispute involves various stages, which attract legal costs should you seek legal representation. These include, but are not limited to:
- initial advice before conciliation or claim issued
- consideration of the documentation and information gathering
- advice on negotiation of settlement early on
- advice on the merits of the case
- advice and assistance drafting the claim form (the ET1 form – perhaps including a detailed document called a Particulars of Claim setting our your case) or defence form (the ET3 form – perhaps attaching a detailed ‘defence’ document known as the Grounds of Resistance)
- once a case has been filed at the Employment Tribunal, advising on the other side’s case, and possibly further settlement negotiations
- preparing a Schedule of Loss, Skeleton Arguments and Agenda
- preparing for the Preliminary Hearing (Case Management Conference) for the Judge to set the timetable for the next steps
- attending Preliminary Hearings (Case Management Conference)
- exchanging documents with the other party and agreeing a bundle of documents
- taking witness statements, drafting statements and agreeing their content with witnesses
- preparing bundles of documents
- reviewing and advising on the other party’s witness statements
- agreeing a list of issues, a chronology and/or cast list
- preparation and attendance at a Final Hearing, including instructions to Counsel (the barrister)
- collating relevant documents and filing them at the Employment Tribunal and serving them on the other party
- advising on Witness Statements
Here is a general estimate of solicitors’ costs depending on complexity, for Wrongful Dismissal/Unfair Dismissal cases, from initial instruction to a final hearing.
- In low complexity matters with few witnesses, as a rough estimate of £15,000 to £25,000 plus VAT of costs from start to finish.
- In more complex matters, with a complex set of facts, perhaps many different claims, many witnesses, considerable documentation, the rough costs estimate may increase to approximately £25,000 -£35,000 plus VAT.
- In far more complex cases, where there are, say, additional complex claims of various types discrimination or bullying and harassment claims included; or more than one claimant or defendant; or various additional applications are required to be made or defended during the tribunal process, you could incur costs of £35,000 – £45,000 plus VAT upwards.
It is much easier to provide a more accurate estimate when advising a client on their particular case.
Please remember these are only rough estimates, and each case is different, with different factors which may increase or decrease costs. In addition to the above solicitors’ fees, you may also incur disbursements. Disbursements are costs related to your matter, that are payable to third parties, such as barrister’s fees (should you instruct a barrister). We handle the payment of the disbursements on your behalf to ensure a smoother process.
When appropriate, it may be cheaper to instruct a specialist barrister to, say, draft Particulars of Claim or a ‘Defence’, or attend a final hearing. If that is the case, we will make you aware of this possibility. If a barrister is to attend a Final Hearing they would normally charge for a day’s preparation and then each day they attend the trial for as long as it lasts. Depending on the experience of the barrister the costs may vary. We would always obtain a cost estimate, for you to be satisfied with, before instructing a barrister. As a very rough estimate, that may amount to £1,000 plus VAT per day for Final Hearing work. Barristers also work on an hourly rate basis.
The time that it takes from taking your initial instructions to the final resolution of your matter depends largely on the stage at which your case is resolved. If a settlement is reached during pre-claim conciliation, your case is likely to take 2-4 weeks. If your claim proceeds to a Final Hearing, your case is likely to take 20-28 weeks, perhaps even 52 weeks if other factors delay the case (such as adding in new ‘Defendants’ (Respondents) or requirements for experts’ reports). The Final Hearing can be a day or so, or even weeks, usually depending on the number of witnesses and complexity of the issues in dispute.
This is just an estimate and we will of course be able to give you a more accurate timescale once we have more information and as the matter progresses.