Workers awarded payouts from their former employers at Employment Tribunals will be given extra help to ensure they receive their payments.
Justice Minister Bridget Prentice has confirmed the creation of a new Employment Tribunal Fast Track scheme, which will simplify the process for successful tribunal applicants.
From 6 April they will be able to call on an extended service from the High Court Enforcement Officers if the other party fails to pay the award ordered by the tribunal.
An Officer will complete the court processes for them and move on to enforcement as soon as possible.
The move is the latest of a series of policies designed to help Employment Tribunal Applicants, created because of the high number of employers failing to pay.
Justice Minister Bridget Prentice said:
‘The Government is determined to ensure people are not denied access to justice by a small minority of unscrupulous individuals or companies who refuse to respect the award. The fast track will ensure all recipients can pursue their awards with ease.’
To start the fast track process is easy for the employee. The only cost to them would be the Ã‚Â£50 court fee needed to issue a writ to seize assets which will cover the amounts they are owed and this will be added to the debt owed by their employer.
The Ã‚Â£70.50 the High Court Enforcement Officer would normally charge the employee if the award could not be recovered will be waived.
Research published by the Ministry of Justice in May 2009 showed 39% of people granted awards by tribunals had not been paid and only 53% were paid in full.
Details of more than 570 individuals and companies who have failed to make payments in the past year have been added to a searchable database.
The Ministry of Justice began adding them to the register in April 2009 to encourage others to make sure they paid up.
The database, which can be searched by members of the public and credit reference firms, contains details of defaulters who have court judgments, orders, criminal fines and now tribunal awards registered against them.
The fast track has been created following discussions with Citizens Advice who have lobbied for a cost free process to help employees.
Richard Dunstan, social policy officer for Citizens Advice, said:
‘We warmly welcome this measure, which we hope will give the Employment Tribunal system the teeth it needs to ensure that rogue employers actually pay the awards made against them. All too often at present, a successful claim to the tribunal proves to be a hollow victory. That is unfair to the claimants, to the taxpayer, and to the great majority of employers who abide by the law.’
Andrew Wilson, Chair of the High Court Enforcement Officers Association Working Party, who led the discussions with the Ministry of Justice said:
‘We were delighted to join in with this initiative from the Justice Secretary – helping employees to achieve the outcome of their Employment Tribunal awards is very much in line with our work as court enforcement officers helping creditors enforce their court judgments and orders. The accelerated procedure now agreed, in a relatively short time, should go a long way towards improving recovery rates for these deserving cases.’
Audrey Williams, Head of Discrimination at International Law Firm Eversheds, comments:
“Tribunals generally have no formal powers to enforce awards of compensation, which has meant that employers are sometimes dilatory in making payment. Indeed, research by the Ministry of Justice last year suggested this has become an increasingly widespread issue, with 39% of employers failing to pay and leaving unpaid claimants to seek recovery through the court system.
“Since last year, defaulting employers have started to be named and shamed on a searchable database. Today’s announcement represents a further step aimed at ensuring tribunal awards are paid or paid more promptly by giving successful claimants a helping hand in the legal process for enforcing tribunal awards and greatly speeding up the process. Employers will need to respond more quickly to tribunal decisions if they are to avoid increasing the amount payable through charges and interest.
“There is another, less obvious factor, of which employers should be aware in cases involving allegations of discrimination but which might prompt early payment. It is now clear, following a case last year, that non-payment of an award can itself constitute an act of discrimination, compounding any acts which preceded and, if challenged, commanding additional compensation.”