Where upfront costs can be up to £1,200, Qamar Anwar discusses utilising ATEs and DBAs in the employment law sector.
Employment tribunal claims are decreasing. In the period from 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2015, 61,308 employment tribunal claims were raised, compared to 105,803 in the same period between 1 April 2013 and 31 March 2014.
The lack of legal aid funding has hit access to justice hard – and this includes employment law cases. Yet this does not coincide with fewer employment grievance issues being raised.
Following a significant increase in inquiries relating to employment issues, we extended our legal services panel to include employment law earlier this year.
Over the past six months around 30 per cent of our wider legal services enquiries have been employment related, and of these we have been unable to assist in around 60 to 75 per cent of these cases.
Typically, in a third of these cases, we are unable to help because of the tighter limitation periods on length of service and reporting time to raise a grievance or go to the tribunal. However, in around 45 per cent of cases, it is simply down to affordability for the client.
Increasingly, victims of employment discrimination or shoddy employment practices can simply no longer afford to take on their employer. Claimants now have to pay upfront costs of either £390 or £1,200 in tribunal fees, depending on the type of claim brought.
In response to the difficulties faced by employment law claimants, we have been piloting a new product on behalf of our panel, which will remove the difficulties of clients having to fund tribunal fees and being exposed to potential costs in an employment matter.
Our panel firms can offer the claimant an employment-related ‘after the event’ (ATE) product which, when in place, provides guaranteed access to funding for their claim.
The ATE provides the claimant with cover for adverse costs, expert reports, tribunal fees, and counsel’s fees as well as the cost of the premium itself, plus all monies advanced under the funding arrangement.
The product removes exposure to costs that would otherwise be a risk to the client in pursuing their claim and, if our panel is also able to offer to work under a damages-based agreement (DBA), allows employment work to be offered on a ‘no win, no fee’ model.
We carefully screen all calls into our claims centre and, where the claimant stands a reasonable chance of success, put them forward to the lawyer best able to assist with their claim.
From start to finish, we keep in touch with the claimant and the firm helping them to find out how the case is progressing and to ensure our panel member firm is providing their client with the best possible service.
When developing our employment law marketing strategy, we had to think about the typical employment claimant and began with detailed research and persona building to understand the differences and unique characteristics of the types of people that make an employment claim and the challenges they face.
This impacted our website presence, television campaigns, and digital marketing structure.
Across television, we developed a new advertising strategy, launching a new advert for employment law in May 2015. The advert was introduced to reflect the very specific and individual needs of employment claimants. We also created specific YouTube adverts in recognition of the changing viewing habits of our target audience.
Concurrently, we reviewed and restructured our digital marketing strategy. The final thread was the introduction of a brand new website, which has enabled us to introduce our employment law service more effectively.
The content is mobile-responsive and offers a number of personalisation features, developing and presenting information based on each individual visitor’s needs and requirements.
It also better understands what they have searched for and the content viewed, and then starts presenting more relevant information to meet claimants’ requirements, recognising when they return and presenting more bespoke information.
Our employment law advertising campaign focuses on the impact of appointing the wrong lawyer to fight your case.
It shows the claimant sitting down in the staff canteen, happy he has been successful but on his own as no one wants to sit with him. Our message is ‘use the right lawyer to ensure you make your claim successfully, keep your job, and do not become alienated’.
We are determined to provide access to all and not just to those who can afford it. We can also demonstrate that we know precisely who we need to speak to and how we can find them.
Qamar Anwar is managing director of First4Lawyers @First4Lawyers