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We provide advice and representation to employers who are defending claims brought by employees in the Employment Tribunal for unfair or wrongful dismissal.
What will our defence cost?
At the first appointment we will consider whether there is third party funding available, typically under an insurance policy. If a suitable policy is in place we are generally willing to accept instructions from your insurance provider and offer you a service at hourly rates to be agreed with the insurer. You are usually entitled to insist on the insurer appointing a solicitor of your own choice once any claim has been issued and in many cases insurers will allow you to do so before any claim has been issued.
In other cases our charges will be based on our solicitors' hourly rates which are dependent upon the level of experience of the solicitor. Our current range of hourly rates for members of the team is from £185 plus VAT to £420 plus VAT per hour.
It can be difficult to provide an accurate cost estimate at the outset of a case as there are a great number of variables, especially including how reasonably the claimant and/or any representative appointed by the claimant conduct themselves.
We would usually expect our total costs for defending a two day ordinary unfair or wrongful dismissal claim to be between £10,000 and £25,000 plus VAT, but they can be higher than this if the case is a complex one, particularly where the sums in dispute are high.
What are the key stages in a claim?
A typical case of unfair or wrongful dismissal in the Employment Tribunal involves the following stages:
- taking your initial instructions, reviewing the papers and advising you on the strength of the case against you and how much compensation you may have to pay the employee if you lose (this assessment is likely to be revisited throughout the case and may be subject to change, if new evidence emerges)
- entering into pre-claim conciliation in order to explore whether a settlement can be reached
- preparing your response to the claim and finalising this with you
- preparing for and attending a preliminary hearing (when the Tribunal sets a timetable for the litigation)
- considering the claimant’s schedule of loss
- reviewing and listing all your documents that are relevant to the case, exchanging documents with the claimant and agreeing a bundle of documents for the Tribunal
- taking evidence from witnesses, drafting witness statements and agreeing their content with the witnesses
- preparing a bundle of documents for the Tribunal
- reviewing and advising on the claimant’s witness statements
- agreeing a list of issues and a chronology with the claimant
- preparation and attendance at the final hearing, including instructing a barrister to represent you and approving the barrister’s skeleton argument
The stages set out above are an indication and if some of the stages are not required the fee will be reduced. You may wish to handle the claim yourself and only have our advice in relation to some of the stages, or to deal with some of the early preparation yourself, but instruct us to appoint a barrister and ensure that everything is ready for trial.
Potential impact on cost
Factors that could make your defence more complex and/or add cost include:
- if it is necessary to make or defend applications to amend the pleadings (claim or defence), to obtain documents or to request further information about the claim
- defending claims that are brought by claimants who are not legally represented and acting unreasonably
- preliminary issues which may need to be considered at a separate hearing, such as whether the claimant is an employee or whether he/she is out of time to bring a claim
- the number of witnesses and documents
- the frequency and length of our correspondence and telephone calls with you
- the number of issues and events which the Tribunal will need to consider in order to determine the claim
- allegations of discrimination, whistleblowing or other claims which are linked to the dismissal
- postponements of hearings (sometimes the Tribunal postpones hearings at short notice and this is outside our control)
- the amount of negotiation with the claimant about settlement
- making or defending an application for costs
Disbursements are costs related to your case that are payable to third parties such as barristers' fees and photocopying fees. We handle the payment of the disbursements on your behalf to ensure a smoother process, but reclaim these from you.
Barristers' fees will depend on the seniority of the barrister but for a two day ordinary unfair or wrongful dismissal claim where the amount in dispute is not very high we would expect the barrister to charge a fee of £1,500 to £3,000 plus VAT per day to attend the first day of the hearing (including preparation) and an additional fee of £1,000 to £1,500 plus VAT for the second hearing day. Wherever possible we will suggest at least two barristers for you to choose from.
Please note that the total cost for defending your claim includes disbursements as well as our fees.
How long will my matter take?
The time that it takes from taking your initial instructions to the final resolution of your case depends largely on the stage at which your case is resolved.
If a settlement is reached during the pre-claim conciliation period, your case is likely to take about six weeks. If your claim proceeds to a final hearing your case is likely to take 6 - 12 months, but it could take even longer than this. This is just an estimate and the length of Tribunal cases varies between Tribunals and at different times of the year.
The final hearing is almost always set at the preliminary hearing and we are therefore unlikely to be able to predict how long it is likely to take for your case to be heard until the preliminary hearing has taken place. Tribunals will not always give their decision at the hearing and may only do so some months after the hearing.
Who will deal with our case?
We are a specialist team of employment lawyers comprising four partners and two associate solicitors. We are supported by a number of trainees who will assist in the preparation of your case, where appropriate, to help us provide a cost effective service.
Anthony Sakrouge, Alex Bearman, Ed Wanambwa and Jeremy Coy have extensive experience acting for businesses in all types of employment claims. Our clients have included employers of all sizes based in and around London as well as nationals and multi-nationals. We have successfully defended or obtained excellent settlements in the very large majority of claims brought against our employer clients. As well as acting in the defence of unfair and wrongful dismissal claims we advise on discrimination, whistleblowing, internal grievance and disciplinary procedures, termination negotiations and transfer of undertakings (TUPE).
We will always give you practical and commercial advice and provide realistic assessments of your prospects and your options at the beginning of a case and as the matter progresses. We understand that Employment Tribunals are a drain on executive time and can be stressful for your staff and we focus on supporting you to minimise disruption and obtain resolution.
To speak to a member of our team please call +44 (0)20 3826 7550.