A Shropshire employment law specialist has welcomed George Osborne's plans to introduce a fee for bringing an industrial tribunal but warned it could threaten the fairness of the process if the sums don't add up.
Paul Bennett, of Bennett’s Legal in Shrewsbury, said they represented both employers and employees and felt the move was to be welcomed.
But he stressed that they would await research on the fees to be charged before backing the plan completely.
A fee will be introduced for the first time for bringing an industrial tribunal from April 2013, the chancellor announced at this week's Tory Party Conference. Up until now there have been no charges for an applicant making an employment tribunal claim.
Mr Osborne said that there will be a refund for anyone who wins their case while also confirming that, from April 2011, the qualifying period for a claim for unfair dismissal will be that the individual must have been in the job for at least two years. At present they only need to have been working there for one year.
“We welcome the plan to extend the qualifying period for unfair dismissal as we see businesses with claims against them from those who get a job, cause problems and bring a claim. They then move on to the next business and do the same. Our regular clients avoid this risk by our support in the probationary period and by managing the problem people out. However we see a new client most weeks which has failed to do this. The two year period will focus the protection on genuine employees who are there for the long term for the business. It strikes the right balance,” Mr Bennett commented.
"We respect the right of those who spent their whole lives building up a business, not to see that achievement destroyed by a vexatious appeal to an employment tribunal. So we are now going to make it much less risky for businesses to hire people," Mr Osborne said.
Last year there were 236,000 employment tribunal claims - of which only some were unfair dismissal claims, with an average award for successful complainants of £8,900.
Mr Bennett, founder of the firm based at the Battlefield Enterprise Park, said it was "a positive move for small businesses".
"Change is needed because small businesses have been dealing with claimants with no prospect of success bringing claims in the hope that paying them off is cheaper than fighting them for too long,” he said.
"But while we welcome this move we have reservations. My concern really is how much the fee will be because the balance is difficult to strike to be both fair for legitimate claimants and be fair to employers by deterring the unreasonable element.
"As we act for both claimants and employers we want to see the research around the fee."
Mr Osborne told the conference the amount charged and how it would be paid will be subject to a consultation starting no later than the end of November.
The low-paid, or those without an income, may also have the fee waived or reduced at the start of the process, under the new scheme.
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