Employment solicitors welcome tribunal award enforcement

The government has announced plans to use high court enforcement officers for recovering tribunal awards won by employment solicitors.

Awards won by employment solicitors not paid

The news follows repeated findings that awards won by employment solicitors in tribunal hearings are not being paid. The latest findings indicate that despite employment solicitors winning awards at tribunal, 39% of their clients are not paid and only 53% are paid in full. This follows research published last October showing that 1,500 tribunal winners a year do not receive their payout, news that was greeted by employment solicitors with little surprise.

Jonathan Mansfield, of employment solicitors Thomas Mansfield, said at the time: "we know from experience that employers will rely on the fact that it is necessary to go through a county court to get payment enforced." However, following an announcement from Justice Secretary Jack Straw of the introduction of a stronger line, employment solicitors hope these numbers will drop significantly.

Employment solicitors approve new rules

Employment solicitors favour tribunals over court hearings as a less formal way of settling a case should all other options fail. However, the upshot of this informality is that awards made in the course of these proceedings, up to now, have been easier for employers to dodge and harder for employment solicitors to chase.

Currently, ensuring that a payout is made often involves getting a Country Court judgment. However, employment solicitor Jonathan Mansfield explained to TakeLegalAdvice that it can be quite straightforward:"The decision only needs to be registered and a second hearing isn't required."

Nevertheless, employment solicitors often find that employees have little awareness of their rights or are cynical about the costs and time involved making the latest announcement a welcome one. The Ministry of Justice now plans to use high court enforcement officers to recover awards, by means such as seizing belongings, and which employment solicitors say could take place less than 7 weeks after the decision has been reached.

Speaking to Personnel Today, Guy Lamb, of employment solicitor DLA Piper, said: "It is very difficult to enforce the award when you get one. The new system will make things move more quickly."

NB: None of this information should be construed as legal advice.

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