Employment tribunal awards costs despite accused being unable to pay

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The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has upheld an Employment Tribunal’s (ET) decision to award £10,000 of costs against a Claimant despite personal debt meaning she is currently unable to pay.

In a case of unfair dismissal and race discrimination, Chadburn v Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and another, Mrs Chadburn was discovered to have pursued an invented race discrimination claim so that the ET would have jurisdiction to hear her claims.

Her actions having significantly increased the litigation costs for the case, The ET decided that Mrs Chadburn should be awarded costs because at 39 she still has many years in her working lifetime to earn the sum that she owes.

Howes Percival Employment Law expert Louise Piper said:

“This is a helpful case for employers who are faced with vexatious claims and could act as a deterrent to employees seeking to make false allegations. At Howes Percival, we have obtained a number of costs orders for our clients in similar circumstances and have made a point of investigating the Claimant’s circumstances at regular intervals and reminded them that our clients will expect the costs order to be paid when they are in a position to do so.”

This is in contrast to a number of earlier cases where costs have not been awarded on the basis of the ability to pay argument and is perhaps indicative of a changing landscape with regards to the recovery of costs, where a Claimant is found to have acted unreasonably.

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