Check what it might cost to make an employment tribunal claim

This advice applies to Scotland. See advice for See advice for England, See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Wales

You don't have to pay any fees to make an employment tribunal claim.

If you win, your employer won’t automatically have to pay your costs. If you lose, you don’t automatically have to pay your employer’s costs. 

Your employer might say you’ll have to pay their costs if you lose - they might say this to scare you into dropping your case or settling it. You shouldn’t have to pay any costs as long as you’ve got a reasonable case and act reasonably. There’s only a very small chance you’ll have to pay your employer's costs if you lose.

If you have a paid adviser or legal representative, like a solicitor, you might still have to pay them, depending on what you agreed beforehand.

Costs are the amount of money you paid to bring the claim. Your employer will also have paid costs to defend the claim. Costs might include:

  • fees for the opinion of an expert witness - like a medical report

  • legal fees for helping to prepare the claim

  • paying for legal representation - like a solicitor - at the tribunal

Check if you have to pay your employer’s costs if you lose

There are a few situations where there’s a risk that you might have to pay costs. For example, this might be if:

  • your case had no chance of success

  • you behaved very badly in the way you dealt with your case 

  • you turned down a good offer to settle

There’s no limit to how much you could be asked to pay if you lose. You can avoid having to pay costs if you take the following steps.  

Make sure you have a reasonable claim

You must have good reasons for making your claim. Check your claim satisfies the legal tests and that you have evidence to support it. 

Make sure you disclose all the facts

Don't hold back any information about your claim which could affect its outcome. If this only comes out at the hearing, the judge might order you to pay costs.

Tell the truth

If you lie at the hearing and are found out, you might be ordered to pay costs.

Behave reasonably

The judge might ask you to do certain things before the hearing, such as gather evidence or disclose certain documents. These requests are known as ‘directions’ and will be in documents called ‘orders’. If you don't do what the tribunal has asked, you might be ordered to pay costs.

Attend the tribunal hearing

If you don't turn up to the tribunal hearing, the judge might make a judgment anyway and could order you to pay costs.

If you can’t be at the hearing, make sure you tell the tribunal and your employer as early as possible. You’ll need to have a good reason for not attending - for example,  if an illness or injury made it impossible for you to attend. 

Give notice before you withdraw a case

If you decide you want to drop the case and withdraw your claim, try to give as much notice as possible. If you withdraw at the last minute, you might have to pay costs.

If your employer is claiming costs

They’ll have to persuade the tribunal to make a costs order first. 

Make sure you know why your employer is claiming costs. If they say your claim had no reasonable chance of success, you'll need to explain to the tribunal why you weren't aware it was weak - for example because you couldn't get legal advice. 

You should prepare a statement of your income and outgoings, and any savings you have. The tribunal can take into account how much you can afford to pay when deciding whether to make a costs order.

You might also  need to talk to an adviser

Check what costs you can get if you win

If you had legal representation, the judge can make a costs order telling your employer to pay your costs. The judge will make the order if your employer acted badly, for example, if they lied or misled the tribunal. 

If you didn't pay for legal representation at your hearing, the tribunal can order your employer to pay an amount to cover the time you or an unpaid adviser spent preparing a case. The tribunal will make an order called a ‘preparation time order’.

You can only get a costs order or a preparation time order - not both. 

There’s a set amount you can claim for preparation time. The amount increases every year. The current rate is £41 an hour. So if you spent 10 hours preparing your case, you could ask for a preparation time order for 10 x £41, which is £410.

You should make this figure part of the claim you present to your employer. You can also use the amount to try and persuade your employer to settle.

It's also worth asking for a preparation time order if you think your employer:

  • has a no defence 

  • is behaving unreasonably - for example by not disclosing documents 

  • isn’t complying with other directions from the tribunal

If you want to ask for a costs or preparation time order

If you had a paid adviser or representative, they should give a statement of costs to your employer before the hearing. 

The tribunal might take account of your employer’s ability to pay when making an award for costs.

If you want to apply for a preparation time order, warn your employer you’re going  to ask for one before the hearing. At the hearing, you’ll need to write down how many hours you or an unpaid adviser has spent on the case and multiply it by the hourly rate. You'll also need to give the reasons why you're asking for the order.

The judge will decide whether to make the order based on the information you give them.

You can write to the employment tribunal office to ask for a costs or preparation time order at any time during the proceedings or no later than 28 days after the judgment.

Page last reviewed on 05 October 2021