Employment cases drop dramatically after the introduction of tribunal fees.

In May 2013, we blogged about the introduction of charges from 29 July 2013 to raise or appeal a claim at the Employment Tribunal.  The Law Society of Scotland has since noted that new cases lodged with the UK’s Employment Tribunals have plummeted by about three quarters.

The new fee structure involves payment of an issue fee when the claim is submitted and a hearings fee to be paid prior to the full merits hearing.

The Ministry of Justice’s Tribunal Statistics Quarterly for October to December 2013 reveal that 9,801 claims were received in that period, some 79% fewer than in the same period of 2012 and 75% fewer than the previous quarter.  Clearly, the introduction of fees is having a dramatic impact.

Claimants on a low income may not be required to pay the full fees and the Government has stated it is committed to reviewing the fee structure once implemented to assess its impact, in order to consider if changes are needed.

The Government’s reasons for the reforms are said to be to avoid “drawn-out disputes” which are “very emotionally damaging for workers and employees, as well as being financially damaging for employers”.  Few would argue with that but those aims might have been achieved by more robust case management, weeding out weak cases and striking out cases for unreasonable behaviour, rather than introducing a system which potentially deters those with genuine cases from enforcing their rights, purely for financial reasons.

Resolving Commercial Disputes

There are always going to be disputes in commerce.  That is the way of the world but I think there are some cardinal rules to follow if you find yourself in a contentious situation.

DO:

  • Try to negotiate an amicable solution.  Review what was agreed and how clear the agreement was.  Always keep evidence of negotiations including copies of letters and notes on conversations.
  • Assess whether you have a strong case.  Clarify how the other party has failed to live up to the agreement and consider what extent you may have contributed to the dispute.  Assess the loss you have suffered and the risks of a counterclaim.  Collate all evidence e.g. written contracts, correspondence and witness statements.
  • Decide whether you need legal advice.  Legal advice should be sought unless the argument is straightforward, represents a relatively small amount of money and runs no risk of counterclaim.  Clarify the costs and timescales involved in taking the recommended legal action.
  • Be prepared for a protracted and costly process if you pursue legal action.  Track progress and legal costs as the case proceeds.  After a successful court action, be prepared to enforce judgement to obtain payment.
  • Retain any details of the other party’s bank accounts from cheques, standing order mandates etc.  These can be very useful if enforcing a court judgment.
  • Accept a reasonable offer rather than go to court.  Consider how far you are prepared to compromise either by accepting stage payments or partial payment for a quick resolution.  Continue to be prepared to compromise by accepting any reasonable offer to avoid further delays and disruption and the risk of court action.

DON’T

  • Waste time or money pursuing someone who cannot pay.  Assess the other party’s ability to pay by, for example, running a credit check or finding out what property they own.
  • Refuse to compromise.
  • Ignore the risks of losing any legal action.

We are here to help with any commercial disputes and try to provide a resolution.  If you have any questions please call Paul Neilly on 0141 552 3422 or email him on paul@mitchells-roberton.co.uk

I have a boundary dispute with my neighbours. What should I do?

Identifying the boundary between two properties requires specialist knowledge. In all cases, it would be necessary to take one or more of the following steps:

  • Checking the title deeds and plans
  • Taking measurements
  • Referring to Ordnance Survey maps
  • Resolving conflict between stated dimensions and scaled measurements
  • Examining extrinsic evidence

The costs of pursuing a boundary dispute can run to thousands of pounds particularly if the matter is taken all the way to court. It is therefore essential at the outset to examine the facts that support your case and identify any problem that you may have to overcome before deciding how far to pursue the dispute.

We understand the importance of limiting the initial costs until you are in a better position to decide how to proceed.

We will limit our fee to no more than £200 + VAT for :

  • Taking your initial instructions in a meeting or phone call lasting no longer than 30 minutes
  • Reviewing the documents supplied by you
  • Providing you with preliminary advice
  • Entering into limited correspondence with the other party if an urgent response is required.

If the matter is to proceed to court we have experienced civil litigators who can help.

If you have a dispute or potential dispute, please contact Alison Gourley for a confidential discussion on 0141 552 3422 or by email on ajg@mitchells-roberton.co.uk

The Scottish Government Passes Children’s Bill

On the 19th February 2014 the Scottish Parliament passed the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill with 103 MSPs voting for it and with 15 abstentions. The aim of the Bill is to “transform” services. There are increased provisions for free childcare with three, four and vulnerable two- year- olds getting around 16 hours free care per week as from August 2014. The Bill also encompasses free school meals to all children in the first three years of primary school as from January 2015. Further the Bill lays out a plan to help young people in care, meaning that teenagers in residential, foster or kinship care would have the right to continue to be looked after until the age of 21. The appointment of a “guardian” for every child in Scotland also forms part of the Bill. This proposal is to nominate specific named persons from the NHS and councils to monitor every young person’s well-being from birth to eighteen.

Although the Bill has been passed it has not been without opposition. The Faculty of Advocates  previously issued advice to the Scottish Government when the Bill was going through the consultation stage ,saying that they believed  the Government was going too far with the new Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill. The plan that there should be an individual appointed (known as a “named person”) who is there to look out for all children generally, as opposed to only those who would appear to need looking out for, has come under criticism that it interferes with family life and could be in conflict with the European Convention on Human Rights.

In terms of the Children Scotland Act 1995, section 1(1) a child’s parents are the persons principally responsible for carrying out the functions mentioned in clause 19 of the new Bill, which include safeguarding and promoting a child’s health development and welfare and with offering direction and guidance. In the first instance it is the responsibility of a parent to seek assistance if this is required by their child. The Faculty of Advocates therefore argued that this part of the Bill could possibly dilute the legal role of parents, whether or not there is any difficulty in the way that parents are fulfilling their statutory responsibilities. It would appear to undermine family autonomy and therefore potentially result in interference with private and family life in a way that could violate article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

At worst the Bill seems to imply that parents are not the people ideally placed to decide what is best for their children and when they may be at risk. Given that the number of parents who abuse or neglect their children is thankfully a minority, it would seem that the Bill is trying to use a sledgehammer to crack a nut. While some may say that parents who have nothing to hide should have nothing to fear, should we be interfering in family life to that extent? Could it just be the thin edge of the wedge that causes even more “Big Brother” legislation? And is it in fact legitimate or could it be in breach of our commitment to the ECHR? The Faculty of Advocates made their concerns clear but the controversial legislation has been voted through in spite of these doubts.