County Court – the new venue for claims?
The former President of the Employment Tribunals in England and Wales has expressed a view that the reduction in claim numbers in the Tribunals of 80% is due in part to claims being brought in the County Court, due to the fees being less onerous. All Tribunal claims carry a flat fee of at least £160 to issue a claim and either £230 or £950 for a hearing fee irrespective of the amount claimed. However, the cheapest online issue fee in the County Court is only £25. Hearing fees start from as little as £25, with the maximum fee in the small claims track (for claims up to £10,000) being £335.
Therefore, whilst the County Court might be a cheaper venue for lower value contract claims (such as wages or notice pay) of up to £3,000, for claims above this amount the Tribunal fees are in fact less. Further, the County Court are broadly restricted to considering only these types of claims and cannot deal with unfair dismissal claims.
Having undertaken a considerable number of claims in the County Court recently, the suggested trend would in part appear to be borne out in practice. Certainly there is more willingness to look at other courts from employers and employees alike. As with the Tribunal, costs in small claims matters remain the exception rather than the rule. However, in at least two cases this firm successfully applied for and recovered our client’s costs from the other side.