GUIDE TO COSTS
As specialist employment law solicitors, you will have an experienced specialist employment law solicitor supporting you and managing your case.
We understand that using legal services is expensive and we will tailor our service to the fees you can afford. For some clients, this will mean we will handle all aspects of your claim, for others we will support and advise on a particular part of the claim.
Our starting approach to pricing is to use an hourly fee rate. However, we also regularly take instructions on cases funded by Legal Expenses Insurance policies and work with most insurers. We will also consider cases on a 'no win, low fee' basis or a 'no win, no fee' basis (typically 35% of compensation recovered inclusive of VAT) although you may need to pay for the initial assessment.
We provide stage fees and, for the low waged, discounted fees. Where the standard hourly fee is not used, cases will be assessed on an individual basis, and we will discuss and set out what payments will be necessary and when. This can be the case for settlement agreements. For more information on settlement agreements, please see Settlement Agreement section below.
Our fee rates are £235 to £255 plus VAT per hour (£282 to £306 inc. VAT at 20%), depending on the seniority of the solicitor. These rates are lower than most other specialist employment solicitors and substantially lower (over £100 per hour lower) than the large city law firms.
At your initial assessment we will discuss your individual situation, how we can help you, and give you advice on your situation, and what we feel is the best option for you. The initial assessment length and cost will depend on the complexity of your case and on the amount of documentation required to read; typically this is between £500 to £750 plus VAT.
After this assessment we will give you an idea of the cost, the way forward and what to expect. You can then decide whether you would like to go ahead and instruct us.
Claims for unfair or wrongful dismissal:
In line with regulatory requirements, we have set out below an outline of the potential costs and timeframes relating to Employment Tribunal claims for unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal (e.g. that you have not received your notice pay). A few preliminary comments:
- Costs are usually lower because it is unusual for one of our cases to get to a full hearing as we are very good at negotiating settlements.
- Most claims for purely wrongful dismissal (as well as unpaid monies and redundancy) will be classed as 'simple' claims, will be 'fast tracked' by the tribunal and will be at the lower end of the scale.
- Constructive unfair dismissal and discrimination claims based on bullying and harassment over a long period of time usually involve a lot of documents and witnesses, and are classed as more complex.
- Cases involving discrimination and whistleblowing are usually legally more complex, take longer and are, therefore, more expensive. They can, however, also be higher in value.
- Some cases can involve preliminary issues such as whether you are employed, how long you were employed for, whether you are 'disabled', and contested preliminary hearings to decide whether certain documents should be disclosed. Additional hearings to decide preliminary issues will increase the cost. However, if an unfair dismissal or wrongful dismissal case does proceed to a full hearing, our average range of prices are as follows:
- Simple case (1 day hearing): £5,000 to £12,000 plus VAT
- Medium complexity case (2 to 3 days): £10,000 to £25,000 plus VAT
- High complexity case (4 to 7 days): £20,000 to £60,000 plus VAT
Timescales vary according to which area of the country you are in (Bristol/South West has one of the most efficient employment tribunals in the country), how complex the case is and how cooperative your opponent is. In general, a simple case which is fast tracked will, on average, take 6 months to get to a full hearing. Other cases will take, on average, 12 to 24 months.
WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED;
There may be work leading up to issuing proceedings such as filing a grievance or appeal, putting in a data protection subject access request, writing 'open' or 'without prejudice' letters, or attempting a negotiated exit with a settlement agreement. These will have been quoted and charged separately.
The fees set out also do not involve representing you in any counter-claim, appeals and costs applications.
OTHER COSTS (also known as disbursements)
In addition to these costs, if the case gets as far as the main hearing you will also need to pay advocacy fees for a solicitor or barrister to represent you on the day of the hearing. We find it is usually more cost effective for you to use a barrister as they are specially trained to conduct advocacy in hearings.
We only use barristers who specialise in employment law. Average costs vary depending on the barrister's experience, but likely fees are as follows:
- Simple case (1 day hearing): £1,000 to £3,000 plus VAT
- Medium complexity case (2 to 3 days): £1,800 to £5,000 plus VAT
- High complexity case (4 to 7 days): £5,000 to £15,000 plus VAT
If a barrister is representing you, you may also need to meet with them before the hearing to help them prepare for it (a case conference), which has an average range of cost, of £600 to £2,000 plus VAT, depending on how long the case conference takes and how much preparation the barrister needs to do.
If your case involves a dispute over your health, it may be necessary to get a medical report. Fees can range from £80 for a GP report to £1,200 for an expert consultant's report.
Occasionally there can also be travel and hotel costs and the costs of copying large volumes of documents. We will discuss any such expenses with you prior to them being incurred.
LIABILITY FOR COSTS
In the employment tribunal (unlike in the ordinary courts, where the loser pays most of the winner's costs), it costs nothing to start or defend a claim but, each side generally bears their own costs.
Only in certain limited circumstances can some costs be recovered from you or by you against your opponent. These circumstances are where a party has behaved vexatiously, abusively, deceptively or otherwise unreasonably. It usually arises where the employment judge thinks a party has brought or defended a claim unreasonably, lied in their evidence or if they have not cooperated in the conduct of the claim.
Though costs awards are rare, it is not rare for one party to threaten their opponent with a cost's application. This is done to bring pressure on a party and try to force settlement or withdrawal. Unreasonable costs threats are themselves grounds to claim costs.
Settlement agreements can be complex documents, that are difficult to understand. If you have been presented with a settlement agreement you should seek legal advice to help you understand, negotiate and agree on a settlement agreement and an exit from employment that gives you the best outcome possible. 'Best possible outcome' can be maximising the amount of money you receive, but it can also be about job references, speed, protecting your reputation, continuance of benefits and restrictive covenants.
A simple settlement agreement may cost you between £500 to £750 plus VAT. This would be when both sides agree to the main points made in the agreement. We would explain the points to you and facilitate the document exchange between the parties.
A more complex settlement agreement, where we have to negotiate at length, could cost up to £4,000 plus VAT. We would keep you updated throughout the process regarding the costs and the timescales expected. Although this can be difficult to estimate.
Employers will make a contribution for legal advice on settlement agreements. For a simple agreement £500 plus VAT is a reasonable contribution but for complex agreements up to £2,000 plus VAT may be reasonable.
Preparing for an Employment Tribunal:
We set out the steps commonly involved in preparing for an employment tribunal hearing.
- Taking your instructions, reviewing the papers and advising you on the strength and likely monetary value of the claim.
- Going through the pre-claim Early Conciliation process with ACAS.
- Drafting the claim form (ET1) and reviewing the response (ET3), or vice versa depending on who is opponent.
- Drafting further questions about the response/claim and considering responses.
- Exploring, negotiating and agreeing settlement including job references, confidentiality and an obligation not to make derogatory statements.
- Preparing or considering a schedule of loss, setting out how the valuation of the claim is arrived at.
- Reviewing and preparing documents to be sent to the opponent (disclosure). Reviewing the opponent's documents. Agreeing documents bundle and indexing it.
- Making or defending applications to the tribunal for documents, clarification of the claims/response or compelling a witness to attend the tribunal to give evidence.
- Preparing for and attending preliminary hearings. Preliminary hearings decide preliminary issues relating to the conduct of the case (ie case management such as whether certain documents should be disclosed) or a stand-alone legal issue (eg whether you are employed, how long you were employed for or whether you are 'disabled').
- Liaising with you, your opponent, the employment tribunal, witnesses and your barrister.
- Preparing a list of issues, chronology and 'cast list' as necessary and agreeing them with your opponent.
- Meeting with witnesses and drafting witness statements. Reviewing opponents' witness statements with you.
- Providing instructions to your barrister representing you in the main hearing.
- Attending the hearing, if instructed.
- Reviewing the tribunal decision, advising you on what it means and the way forward.