Since 6 April 2014 Employment Judges have had the power to issue a fine (in addition to any compensation awarded to the employee) where an employer has breached workers rights and there were ‘aggravating features’.
Caroline Lucas, Co-Leader of the Green Party, asked how may fines had been issued between 6 April 2014 and end of August 2016. The Government replied on 2 September 2016 to confirm only 16 employers have been fined over that period.
There is no statutory definition of ‘aggravated features’ but repeated and/or deliberate breaches by an employer could fall under the definition. The low number of fines suggest Employment Judges rarely consider employers to have acted so badly as to justify a fine.
The Government plans to publish all employment tribunal decisions in an online database from this Autumn. This will make it easier to track trends and repeat offences by employers and may be used by Claimants and their representatives in support of their claims. It will be interesting to see whether this new database assists Judges to decide whether to issue a fine if there is evidence of the same breaches being committed by the same employer.
Even if a fine is imposed, it cannot be more than £5,000 and could be as low as £100. The Employer can then cut the by 50% if it makes payment in 14 days.
Of the 16 fines imposed since 6 April 2014, only 10 have been paid; 5 remain outstanding and 1 respondent became insolvent.
The current legislation does not allow a fine to be imposed on individuals, meaning the perpetrators of the aggravated conduct escape punishment.
This update follows the Government confirming 62 warning notices have been served for late payment of tribunal awards and settlements since April 2016.(Section 12A of the Employment Rights Act 1996 was introduced by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013)