A Guide to Our Fees for Employment Tribunal Work (unfair and wrongful dismissal cases)
Our employment law services are aimed predominantly at employers and senior executives, consultants and professionals. In most cases, our clients are looking to us to develop pragmatic strategies to achieve their commercial goals and resolve work place issues without recourse to litigation in the Employment Tribunal. However there are times when litigation is necessary to resolve an otherwise intractable dispute, or may be a means of securing a tactical advantage for our clients. This guide is intended to provide clients with a better understanding of how our fees for bringing or defending unfair and wrongful dismissal claims in the Employment Tribunal are calculated, the procedural steps which may need to be covered, the anticipated time lines and the factors which may influence the level of fees charged. However please note that this is only a guide and there can be a lot of variables which can affect the charges. Therefore we provide more tailored cost estimates to clients who are involved in Employment Tribunal litigation, once we have met with them and have a more detailed understanding of the issues and complexities of the cases we are asked to handle.
We are always willing to discuss different pricing models with our clients but when it comes to Employment Tribunal litigation, our fees are usually calculated on one of the following bases:
(a) Hourly rates: We set out our rates in our engagement letter and identify the lawyers who will be working on the case. Our rates vary depending on the seniority and experience of the lawyer. At the end of this document we set out our current standard hourly rates, but when we understand the facts of a case, we are always prepared to discuss the possibility of discounts off our base rates for regular clients of the firm, small companies (typically those with under 40 employees), and private individuals. Such possibilities should be discussed with the Head of our UK employment team, Henry Clinton-Davis. Rates are normally increased at the end of each calendar year. Upon request we can also provide clients with Euro and US Dollar rates;
(b) Blended rates: In suitable cases, we may be able to offer a blended rate, where a single charge-out rate is applied to all team members working on the case, regardless of seniority;
(c) Fixed fees: Fixed fees tend to work best in relation to fairly standard or simple cases, where the amount of documentation and the issues in the case are limited. When offering a fixed fee, we would typically list the various procedural stages that we consider will need to be completed and the fee we would anticipate charging for each such stage. Once a particular procedural stage has been completed, we would invoice the client for the relevant fixed fee for that stage. We would provide our clients with a list of assumptions under-pinning the fixed fee, for their approval. Sometimes the unexpected happens and matters arise that were not included in our mutual assumptions. For example one party or the other may raise new issues or allegations, produce additional documentation or witnesses, or a client may want to be in touch with us far more regularly than we had anticipated, or require us to take other steps that fall outside those we had costed at the outset. In such circumstances, we would inform our client that additional work was being undertaken outside the original fixed fee and revise the fee to take account of the extra work involved.
Range of Costs
As an approximate guide to our fees for bringing and defending unfair and wrongful dismissal claims in the Employment Tribunal, please see below:
- Simple case: £25,000-35,000 plus VAT. (VAT is currently charged at 20% but VAT rates can change periodically. Therefore £25,000 plus VAT equates currently to a fee of £30,000)
- Medium complexity case: £35,000-55,000 plus VAT
- High complexity case: £55,000-100,000 plus VAT
- The number of documents. In a straightforward, simple case, the documentation is likely to run to less than a small ring binder, whilst in a complex case, the documents may extend to several ring binders.
- The number of issues. A straightforward claim may be for unfair dismissal following an employee’s dismissal for redundancy involving few, if any, other employees. The complexity will be increased if multiple redundancies are involved and consultations have been undertaken with employee representatives. Similarly if the employee’s claim involves more than unfair dismissal, perhaps involving other claims such as discrimination or whistle-blowing.
- The number of witnesses. In a simple case, the employee and a member of the employer’s management team may be the only witnesses. However, the costs are likely to increase and the case become more complex if additional witnesses are involved, each of whom will need to be interviewed and whose statements will need to be drafted.
- If the approach of the opposing party is obstructive, or their disclosure of documents or other information is incomplete, or they refuse to enter into reasonable agreements as to the conduct of the case, requiring additional time to be spent negotiating and possibly making applications to the Tribunal to help resolve any impasse.
- If it is necessary to make or defend applications to amend claims, or provide further information about existing claims.
- Defending claims against litigants in person, who may be unfamiliar with Tribunal procedures and who unwittingly fail to comply with the relevant procedural steps.
- Managing or defending a costs application.
- If a preliminary hearing is needed, perhaps to test a point of law ahead of the main hearing, or to determine issues such as whether the Claimant is really an employee, or is disabled (if this is not agreed between the parties).
- If a Tribunal hearing is adjourned part way through, or the Tribunal decides to deal with the merits of the claim separately from the amount of compensation, necessitating additional trial dates.
Our fee guide set out above covers the following key stages of a claim:
- Taking clients’ instructions, reviewing the papers and advising on the merits and likely compensation (this is likely to be revised throughout the matter and is subject to change to take account of new information or documentation)
- Entering into pre-claim conciliation where this is mandatory to explore whether settlement can be reached
- Preparing a claim or response
- Reviewing and advising on a claim or response from the other party
- Exploring and negotiating settlement
- Preparing or considering a schedule of loss
- Preparing a bundle of documents and exchanging documents with the other party and agreeing a bundle with them
- Interviewing witnesses, drafting statements and agreeing content with the witnesses
- Reviewing and advising on the other party’s witness statements
- Preparing trial bundle, including pagination, index etc.
- Agreeing list of issues, a chronology and/or cast list if required
- Instructing counsel to attend trial
- Preparation for and where appropriate, attendance at a Final Hearing.
Clients may wish to handle the claim themselves and only have our strategic advice in relation to some of the stages. This can be arranged based on the client’s individual needs and a costs estimate for that advice can be given at the time.
Services Not Included
Our fee ranges set out above are for the conduct of the actual litigation in the Employment Tribunal. They do not include providing detailed written advice on the merits (although in an early meeting with clients we will state our views on the merits and give a rough assessment of the level of recoverable compensation). Nor do they include preparing for or attending preliminary hearings, which in straightforward unfair dismissal claims are generally not required, or drafting letters before action on behalf of clients before litigation is commenced, or responding to such letters on behalf of employer clients. However we are always happy to provide cost estimates for such work.
Counsel’s Fees and DisbursementsDisbursements are costs related to a client’s matter that are payable to third parties. This could include court fees for example, albeit the government’s current system of charging fees to bring Tribunal claims has been ruled unlawful by the courts. We handle the payment of disbursements on our client’s behalf to ensure a smoother process, but may require the money to be paid to us upfront, before we pay the third party. This is especially the case when it comes to barristers’ fees - see below. The most significant disbursement Employment Tribunal litigants are likely to face is the cost of barristers. Barristers are essentially expert trial lawyers. They are often engaged by solicitors, particularly in more complex cases, to provide advice, to draft or review pleadings (Claim Forms, Defences, etc.) and to conduct the advocacy at the Final Hearing. In a simple unfair dismissal claim, a barrister may only be instructed for the final stages of a case and sometimes just to represent the client at the trial. In a more involved, multi-issue case, particularly if there are allegations of discrimination as well as unfair dismissal, or complex questions of law, barristers may be instructed with our clients’ consent, at a much earlier stage and may be more closely involved throughout the case. Barristers tend to charge so-called “brief fees” to carry out discrete pieces of work, be it an advice on the merits, drafting a pleading or appearing at a hearing. The fees are agreed with the barrister and the client before the work is undertaken. As a rough guide, so called “junior” barristers tend to charge between £150 and £350 per hour plus VAT for their time, depending on their seniority and experience and the most senior barristers, (“Queen’s Counsel”) will charge considerably more. It is rare that Queen’s Counsel are instructed for unfair and wrongful dismissal cases however. A fixed brief fee will normally be negotiated for the conduct of a Final Hearing. Other disbursements include: - couriers - rarely more than £100 if the client and the solicitors for the other party are located near to our offices - travelling expenses - which may include train fares, taxis, hotel costs depending on where the hearings, or any meetings outside our offices are taking place - we reserve the right to charge for large batches of copying which may be required if cases proceed all the way to a Final Hearing and trial bundles are needed for multiple parties. Any cost estimate we provide would furnish clients with details of the anticipated charges.
How Long Will the Litigation Last?The time that it takes from our first meeting with a client until the final resolution of the matter depends largely on the stage at which the case is resolved. If a settlement is reached during pre-claim conciliation, the case is likely to take 4-8 weeks. If the claim proceeds to a Final Hearing, the case is likely to take 6-8 months, but the time is influenced by factors such as how many days the Final Hearing will last and the number of cases waiting to be listed at the relevant Employment Tribunal. This is, of course, just a rough estimate and we would anticipate being able to give clients a more accurate timescale once we have more information and as the matter progresses.
Employment Litigation TeamHenry Clinton-Davis
The team is headed by partner, Henry Clinton-Davis. Henry practised as a barrister before becoming a solicitor and he is also a qualified mediator. He brings his mediation skills to the fore in settlement negotiations. He has over 25 years’ experience handling cases crossing all areas of employment law. His approach is practical and strategic - using Tribunal procedures to achieve tactical advantage, often with a view to reaching a positive settlement and achieving our clients’ commercial and business objectives. Litigation experience includes bringing and defending unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal, discrimination and harassment claims; dealing with whistle-blower issues including interfacing with relevant regulators; drafting and enforcing non-competes, other restrictive covenants and confidentiality provisions. Henry is an active member of the international committee of the Employment Lawyers’ Association and is in demand as a trainer and speaker on employment law topics. (Base charge-out rate: £620 per hour plus VAT).
Rosine is a senior employment consultant with around 19 years’ employment law experience. She appears regularly in the Employment Tribunal, having fought over 40 cases in the last four years, representing both employers and senior executives. Rosine shares Henry’s strategic approach, always looking for ways to seize the tactical initiative. Her experience likewise covers all kinds of Employment Tribunal litigation, including unfair dismissal and discrimination claims. Rosine is a self-employed consultant under contract with the firm and is not a firm employee. (Base charge-out rate: £380 per hour plus VAT).