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Can you afford to take your employer to court over bullying?

Lots of employees across the UK are bullied at work every day

In theory, they can take their bullying boss to a tribunal to get justice; however, a recent court case has revealed that most people cannot afford to take legal action. If you can relate to this, here is everything you need to know about taking an employer to court.

The fees are too high for most people

The cost of an employment tribunal hit the headlines earlier this year when Unison made its final appeal to the supreme court, claiming that high fees stop many bullied workers seeking justice. This indicates a huge flaw in the legal system, as it shows that legal assistance is too expensive for many people. This means they are unable to change their situation, even if the situation is illegal.

The fees, which were introduced by the government in summer 2013, start at £160 for issuing a claim, with a further £230 if the case is heard in an employment tribunal. If the claim is deemed serious – such as discrimination, sexism or unfair dismissal – there will be an issuing fee of £250 and a hearing fee of £950.

These costs have vastly reduced the number of employment tribunals; in fact, there has been a massive 70% drop in court cases since the fees were announced. Low earners, such as low-paid women taking maternity leave, are being hit the hardest.

Do you want to take the case to court?

If you think you can cover the costs, there are still other issues to consider. Bullying is a stressful and unpleasant experience, but court can be just as stressful and upsetting. Sometimes it can be best to approach the company that you work for about the problem.

Most companies frown upon bullying and may work with you to resolve the issue outside court; however, many companies are only willing to seriously negotiate with employees who may litigate, meaning that it may be useful to speak to a union or an employment lawyer beforehand.

If you arrange to speak to a lawyer or a solicitor, take the time to look online for a company that will speak to you on the phone for free first. This will be useful for both you and the solicitor, as they can measure the likelihood of success before you proceed with legal action. A good solicitor will also tell you more about the costs and the court process, which can be useful if you have not yet decided whether you want to go to court; for example, it may not be worth pursuing the case if the solicitor’s fees are £20,000 and the winnings will only be around £15,000.

Paying your lawyer

Some solicitors are happy to take your case on a no-win, no-fee basis, which means that you will not have to worry about costs too much. It is also worth finding out whether your home or car insurance policy cover legal expenses, as this can lower the costs. You may also be able to get help from the government if you are on a very low income.

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