a)General advisory work
We are always happy to discuss retainers, fixed fees and a range of hourly rates.
For example, if you were interested in a retainer arrangement, we would generally agree an annual fee payable in equal monthly instalments. This means you can budget accurately for legal costs. The fee will vary according to how many employees you have and how much you think you will use us. We usually review the fee after 3 and then 6 months to make sure both you and we are happy the level is a fair one.
Most retainers cover all day-to-day advice, including drafting a defence when a tribunal claim is lodged. Settlement agreements and collective issues such as redundancies or a TUPE transfer would usually be excluded, but here we will generally be able to give you a fixed fee for peace of mind.
We are always conscious that our fees may be significant when set against the value of any claim and are therefore an important factor in considering whether to start a claim and whether to settle. At the beginning of any case, we will evaluate the prospects of success, the likely value of the claim and the options for settlement. We will also provide an estimate of the likely legal costs broken down for each stage of the case together with guidance on how those costs can be managed. For example, you might have insurance cover and/or there may be elements of the claim that you can deal with yourself. The cost of this initial assessment is likely to be between £250 and £500 plus VAT.
Tribunal costs in general
What is covered by these costs?
It is not possible to give the precise costs that might be incurred in an Employment Tribunal case for unfair and wrongful dismissal without knowing the details of the case. Costs will depend on how complex it is, how many people are involved and how long the hearing is likely to last. However, our experience garnered over decades of work in this field is that the legal fees for cases (to include all the work up to and including the hearing) typically range between £5,000 plus VAT to £7,000 plus VAT per hearing day (see below for the likely number of hearing days for typical cases). These figures are based on the amount of work involved charged at the appropriate hourly rate (which varies according to the nature of the work). Most work would typically be charged at £250 per hour plus VAT but some of the potentially more straightforward preparation work, such as compilation of a list of your relevant documents for use in the case, would be charged at the lower hourly rate of £150 plus VAT.
Legal fees for purely wrongful dismissal cases (without an unfair dismissal claim or any discrimination or other claim) will be more in the range of £2000 - £3000 plus VAT. There may be additional costs, for example the costs of a barrister should we agree that this would be beneficial. If we instruct a barrister to assist with the hearing, the costs will depend on the experience of the person we instruct. We will discuss this with you before making any decision. Barristers’ fees vary widely but typically range from between £1,000 plus VAT to £3,000 plus VAT per hearing day with costs for advice given earlier in the process typically based on an hourly rate which increases with the level of experience of the barrister.
Simple unfair dismissal cases normally last for 2 to 3 days and so our total costs for a fully contested unfair dismissal case (with or without an associated claim for wrongful dismissal) would be between £16,000 and £25,000 plus VAT. The costs of a barrister would need to be added to these figures. More complicated unfair and wrongful dismissal cases, for example those that involve allegations of whistleblowing or discrimination, or where there are multiple witnesses, tend to be longer and the costs would increase proportionately.
Costs for legal representation on tribunal claims are higher for employers than for employees because the employer will normally have more documents and witnesses to deal with and the employer is expected to take responsibility for some of the steps necessary in the preparation of the case, for example the preparation of the files of documents that will be used at the final hearing.
The costs set out above cover all of the stages of a typical unfair dismissal claim (with or without an associated claim for wrongful dismissal). The key stages of a simple unfair and wrongful dismissal claim are usually as follows:
“Early conciliation” which can last for up to 6 weeks. During this time negotiations aimed at resolving the case without the need for a hearing are conducted with the assistance of an independent conciliator from ACAS, the Government’s independent conciliation service. You can read more about early conciliation here www.acas.org.uk/earlyconciliation . If the case is not resolved through early conciliation then it will progress through steps 2 – 4 below.
The presentation of the claim and defence. The claim must usually be presented within three months of the end of employment and the defence within 28 days of receipt by the employer of the claim.
Dealing with any directions given by the Tribunal about the conduct of the case including
Preparation of a schedule setting out the compensation sought by the employee;
Preparation of a list of all documents relevant to the case and sending copies of those documents to the other side;
Preparation of witness statements and exchanging statements with the other side;
The preparation of a set of documents containing all of the documents each side intends to use at the final hearing together with the witness statements. It is usually the employer’s responsibility to produce this final set of documents including enough copies for all parties to the case and for each tribunal member.
The hearing of the case.
How long will the case last?
This will depend on the complexity of the case, how the other side behave and the availability of the Tribunal to hold the hearing/s. Where a case is short, (up to 2 days) we would expect the final hearing to take place between 6 and 9 months after the initial presentation of the claim. For longer cases, the final hearing may be up to one year after the claim is presented.
However, the reality is that fully contested Employment Tribunal cases are very rare. The vast majority (more than 90%) of cases settle well before a Tribunal hearing. Most cases settle before claims are issued and therefore the costs are greatly reduced. Obviously, the earlier cases settle the lower our fees.