We are so used to seeing reports in the media of mammoth pay outs ordered by the Employment Tribunal to wronged employees: “RAF nurse who treated wounded soldiers awarded £560,000 for sex discrimination”, “Tribunal awards £3.1m for banker falsely labelled “Ms Cokehead”, “Dismissed Secretary wins £316,000 in Employment Tribunal for sex a disability discrimination claim” are a few examples. It portrays a picture of a the Employment Tribunal as a guardian of the little guy, righter of wrongs and pinless ATM firing out compensatory awards like a scatter gun. This impression is very far from the truth.
The bald facts are that suing your employer is very costly, stressful, time-consuming and rarely results in a wronged employee emerging feeling victorious from the process. In fact many claimants report that had they known at the beginning how stressful it would be in the beginning, they would have thought twice about even entering into the process.
The costs of using a lawyer can be exorbitant. Svetlana Lokhova, the banker referred to by her employers as “crazy Miss Cokehead” won £3.2million in Employment Tribunal but ended up bankrupt after having to pay legal fees of £2million and repay loans to friends and relatives for money she needed to survive during the process.
If you win, awards are generally a lot less than people expect. In sex discrimination cases, the average financial award is £10,552, according to the Tribunal Statistics but this number is inflated by the rare breed of large pay out reported in the press. You are more likely to receive around the £5,000 mark. If you work for a very small company, you may not be able to actually enforce the judgement against them to get your money. Sometimes it’s simply not worth it. Find out if it’s worth suing your employer.
If you are an employee suing your employer, you also have to think about the effect that suing your employer is going
to have on your relationship with your colleagues and on your career. Often raising a claim at work results in an employee being labelled a trouble-maker and then side-lined for promotion opportunities, or worse.
The law is supposed to protect employees from this kind of victimisation but its human nature to be wary of someone who has a reputation for making serious complaints. Colleagues who verbally support your complaint often turn very shy when asked to go on record for you.
If you have a more sophisticated employer who takes its obligations to its employees seriously and genuinely want to resolve problems in a fair way, or if you’re on your way out of your job anyway, then it’s worth suing your employer, while you’re still employed, or shortly after. Costs needn’t be prohibitive if you have the mettle for a legal dispute and can follow instructions. Employment Law Friend makes it possible to sue your employer, without paying legal fees, using the guidance, information and templates available on the Employment Law Friend website.