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Fees for Employment Tribunals begin today

Some members may remember that an actress was threatening that she and some implausibly large (and probably fictitious) number of others were going to take everyone they had ever worked for unpaid to tribunal.

There was also a small band of actors who were trying to encourage others to take unpaid roles in bad faith for the sole purpose of taking the production to an Employment Tribunal. (What has happened to Nick Thomas-Webster? He seems to have dropped off the Shooting People system entirely...)

Nothing came of any of this hot air, but as from today anyone seeking to launch a claim at an Employment Tribunal has to pay a fee.

Hopefully this will further discourage such individuals from threatening to abuse the system by using it as a kind of intimidatory tool / extortion racket.

It's unfortunate that such behaviour has undermined people who genuinely have a grievance and need to use the process to seek redress.

  • Hi Daniel,
    Even though I do not support Nick's decision, I would suggest that you be more mindful of people's opinions in future.

    Demonising the opinion of others is futile, as it denies their capacity for generosity and closes off the possibility of future discussion.

    5 years ago
    • I don't think I was demonising him. I was simply noting that he appeared for but a short space on the Shooting People community and then disappeared and his sole contribution to the community was to publicise his "victory".

      The relevance is that Nick's claim was for only £500 and furthermore he took the work with the deliberate intent of taking a tribunal.

      Nick claimed "victory" when they other side didn't even contest the claim. An admission of guilt? Perhaps, or maybe they just thought it would be more expensive than £500 to get legal representation and properly contest the claim.

      A fee (which I think is around £500) deters such behaviour. Besides anything else, Employment Tribunals are actually incredibly expensive - the fee is really only a token contribution to the cost.

      It is behaviour like Nick's, which in my opinion was as frivolous and self-indulgent as his grandstanding afterwards, which has caused this obstacle to be put in the way of people with a genuine grievance.

      I know for a fact that NTW case was one which they looked at when considering the introduction of fees.

      5 years ago
  • They should give the fee back if the claim is found to be valid. Otherwise it's not real justice is it, it's just a chance for justice if you have the money to pay for it. Surely it's easy to implement that?

    5 years ago
    • I agree. I tried to look up whether the fee is reimbursed if the claim is successful, but couldn;t find anything. At the very least, one would hope the Employment Judge would take into consideration the fee paid when making an award. However, as I understand it, costs are not normally awarded in trobunal cases.

      5 years ago
    • However, the new rules will allow employment tribunals to order the losing party to refund the winner’s fees, even if the loser has not acted unreasonably in defending the claim. It remains to be seen how readily tribunals will use this power, but it seems likely that in most cases successful claimants will recover the fees they have paid on top of the compensation to which they are entitled.

      5 years ago
  • At the risk of being contrary, the law is really quite clear - and the fact that you might be on a tight budget isn't a reason not to pay people, any more than it allows you to be reckless with health and safety.

    The "work experience" get out isn't all that it seems because you have to make a convincing case that what they did wasn't needed, AND that the focus of their job was their personal development, (i.e. you were doing them a favour, not the other way round). A hard case to make re a main cast member or cameraperson, though easier for a runner.

    Basically, if you are shooting with pretensions that it's serious, has commercial or reputational legs etc, be very careful with not paying people.

    Finally "deferred" or "profit share" - it's a personal view but IMO these are also risky if the aggrieved person was able to claim that there was in fact no realistic likelihood of such payment materialising, and that the producers knew, or should have known, that.

    5 years ago
    • What you say is true if someone is an employee or a worker, but if they are a volunteer then they are not due the minimum wage.

      Volunteers have no contractual obligation to turn up at specific times or perform work or services, but may nonetheless come to informal arrangements (without obligation) to do so and cannot be paid other than out-of-pocket expenses.

      The status of a volunteer has never been tested at tribunal.

      Personally, I say live and let live. If someone wants to advertise for someone to help out for no money, why not?

      I know that if I'm paying someone I'll get someone better and my film will have a competitive advantage as a result.

      Plus, let's face it, this is the only way for most people to start out and cut their teeth.

      5 years ago
    • @Daniel Cormack - agreed, and for genuinely voluntary "let's all make a short with our mate's kit" type things, no problem.

      The problems start when someone is spending significant money, because then a tribunal can decide that the "volunteer" was a fiction because you'd have never commited the kit/travel/set costs if you thought that there was the slightest chance that your volunteer lead would have called you that morning and said "hi guys, got a paying gig instead, so won't be there...", thus in reality the volunteer status was a fiction, (and in this scenario - tribunal, the "volunteer" is claiming that their status was a fiction).

      One thing I have seen several times is people aiming to spend 20-50K on projects, but not pay people. That sort of thing is asking for trouble.

      If your project is big enough to be serious, your "volunteer" arrangements are probably weak, at least in respect of anyone important to the production.

      There is case law - for example Murray vs Newham CAB and Southeast Sheffield CAB vs Grayson, and while not exact, all that means is that producers have to ask themselves "do they want to BE the case law?" for volunteers in film.

      5 years ago
    • @Marlom Tander

      "hi guys, got a paying gig instead, so won't be there..."

      Erm, this is exactly what happens on a regular basis! It's happened to me a couple of times, not on the morning granted (there is normally more notice for paid work), but a few days before hand certainly.

      Some people have explicitly said to me "I've got a potential job and if I get offered, I may have to let you down", which is fine. With a no pay job, all you can ask is that people give you as much notice as possible.

      It would be unreasonable to expect someone to forfeit paid work for a freebie. This is how it always works as far as I can tell.

      If someone treats you like they are doing you a favour by letting you help out on their film unpaid, then this is a major warning sign in my book!

      5 years ago
  • Haven't read the whole thing - but if you accept to come on board with a production and you agree it's 'unpaid' then that should be the way it is. If you don't like the idea of unpaid work - guess what - don't do it! The standard of human beings on earth seems to be deteriorating at a rapid pace these days. Very sad.

    5 years ago
  • This issue comes around regularly here. Let’s just get one thing quite clear though; Employment tribunals are not Courts of Law, they, together with most County Courts, some higher courts of the civil and mercantile branch and almost all magistrates hearings other than criminal cases are, as defined in the definitive Halsbury’s Laws of England, ‘Unlawful Administrative Hearings’ formed from statutory legislation rather than Constitutional Law. The term ‘unlawful’ within this context is not a term of derision but simply a technical fact differentiating the ‘Legal’ from the ‘Lawful’. Where there is a conflict between the ‘Legal’ (statutory) and the ‘Lawful’ (Common or Constitutional Law) the Lawful is always superior. Consequently no decision made at a tribunal or any other ‘Unlawful Administrative Hearing’ can ever create a Lawful Precedent nor can it be ‘Case Law’. Everyone asked to defend themselves at a tribunal has the right to decline the adjudication of a tribunal or any other hearing which does not act under the adjudication of Common Law and seek the adjudication of ‘actual’ English or Scottish Law. This is an unequivocal constitutional right. In principle these Unlawful Hearings are good places to plead guilty, not to defend ones innocence or rights.

    Now let’s consider the issue of statutory employment legislation, not of all which, astonishingly, is actually lawful. Spurious arguments seeking to define any status on the basis of how much a project budget may be or how much of it has been spent on wages have little, if any, weight in actual Law.

    A person can only be deemed an employee according to either the terms of a contract or in certain cases by default where no contract has been made. In certain and specific situations even those without a contract may still be employees per se. Where a person has contracted by agreement to provide certain services voluntarily for no pay, whether or not an honorarium has been offered, the relationship will in general not be deemed to be one of statutory employment in a higher court, otherwise the whole edifice of contractual law in business would unravel.

    The purpose of the minimum wage is to protect employees. Those contracting to provide a service as a business, be it a limited company, sole trader or any other commercial entity as defined within Common Law are not subject to any inferior statute legislation asserting otherwise. Those conspiring to entrap producers through fraudulent intent are the criminals whose crimes are ironically subject to actual law.

    5 years ago