Helping employers and employees cover the costs involved in bringing or defending a claim in the Employment Tribunal
For most people, the cost of bringing or defending a claim in the Employment Tribunal can be prohibitively expensive. This can deter people from standing up for their legal rights in cases involving discrimination in the workplace, unfair dismissal, equal pay and other workplace issues. It can also deter you as employers from defending an unreasonable or vexatious claim because of the costs involved. However, Legal Expenses Insurance (LEI) can help you cover the costs involved in pursuing or defending your case.
LEI is generally provided under the terms of an insurance policy or through membership of a trade union or professional association. You may not even be aware you have LEI, as in some cases this is included in a policy such as household contents/building insurance, as a benefit attached to your bank account, or as a membership benefit with associations such as the Federation of Small Businesses. Check your insurance, banking and membership documents or contact your provider directly to find out whether LEI is included.
There is always a limit to how much can be claimed under the policy and each policy will vary, though the limit is usually £25,000 – £50,000. In addition, there will be strict criteria setting out your eligibility which may include reporting the employment issue within a set time period, the type of employment claim, and in some cases you will have been expected to have sought advice from your LEI provider when the problem first arose. In some cases, an individual may be unfairly turned down and therefore it is important to acquaint yourself with the criteria and challenge any decision that should not apply to you. Many LEI’s insist on you using their own panel of legal advisers. This may mean that you have to deal with a company which is not local to you so you cannot have face to face contact. Also, your case may be dealt with by a paralegal rather than a qualified solicitor or an experienced caseworker.
Your Legal Expense Insurer will require you to provide all relevant documentary evidence together with an outline of your claim or defence so they can assess the merits of your claim or defence. However, in some cases they are happy for your existing solicitor to provide a report on your behalf together with an assessment of the likelihood of success. This is because LEI providers will only agree to fund your case if they believe you have a 51% or higher chance of success. If you are an employee, they will also want to assess your claim to ensure that the cost of bringing proceedings is proportionate to the value of your claim.
Your Legal Expense Insurer will most likely direct you to their own panel of solicitors. This is because they have arrangements with a small number of their panel solicitors to pay a fixed rate on the basis that they will receive high-volume work. However, in many cases you do have freedom of choice in this situation, particularly if you are at the stage where you are ready to either issue or defend a claim
In certain circumstances, the Insurance Companies (Legal Expenses Insurance) Regulations 1990 ensures your right to appoint an independent solicitor of your own choosing. This is often beneficial, as the solicitors provided by your Legal Expense Insurer may be overworked, inexperienced or lacking necessary specialist knowledge, or be geographically inaccessible (as they may be based anywhere in the UK).
If you are disabled (within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010) the LEI has a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments in order to accommodate your disability. For example, if you are profoundly deaf and require a face to face interview, then you have the right to choose your own solicitor within your local area who can meet your specific needs. If you have a mental health impairment such as depression, then it may be very important to you to have face to face personal contact in order to build up trust and confidence with your solicitor. Failure for a service provider to make reasonable adjustments constitutes disability discrimination.
When you select your Employment Law solicitor, you should check that they have the necessary skills and experience relevant to your claim to ensure they are an expert in their field.
Just because you have started your case with an LEI panel solicitor, this does not mean that you have to put up with a substandard service. If you feel your LEI panel solicitor is not the best person to conduct your case then you can rely on your freedom of choice to select a solicitor who can meet your needs.
If you have Legal Expenses Insurance and need to talk to an expert Employment Law solicitor about your case, contact martin searle solicitors. Our team have decades of experience bringing and defending claims relating to discrimination in the workplace, unfair and wrongful dismissal, and equal pay as freedom of choice solicitors for most of the well-known LEI. In addition, we have assisted a large law firm set up a Legal Expense Insurance Employment Law unit, and so are well-versed in the issues facing both employers and employees when their cases are funded by a Legal Expenses Insurer.