Costs awarded in the Employment Tribunal are uncommon. Costs awarded against ‘Litigants in Person’ (people who represent themselves) are even more unusual. Despite this, in the recent case of Liddington v 2gether NHS Foundation Trust the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) awarded costs against Ms Liddington (the litigant in person) for failing to give sufficient detail and clarify her claims despite been given several opportunities to provide the evidence requested of her.
Sarah Begley of The Wilkes Partnership considers the key points of the decision and the impact this could have on future Employment Tribunals.
Ms Liddington was a community practitioner working for 2gether NHS Foundation Trust. After making a safeguarding referral in relation to a patient, Ms Liddington complained that she was subjected to a number of detriments by her employer before being dismissed. She brought various complaints as a litigant including; constructive unfair dismissal, religious discrimination and whistleblowing.
Unfortunately, Ms Liddington was unable to give the specifics relating to her complaints namely; the key dates, what was said or done and by whom.
The Employment Tribunal has the discretion to make a costs order where a party has acted unreasonably when issuing or conducting proceedings.
Whilst it was acknowledged that the standard of pleadings expected of a lawyer did not apply to a litigant in person, the Claimant was expected to be able to articulate her complaints in lay person’s terms. Although the tribunal accepted that Ms Liddington was not trying to cause deliberate difficulties and delays, her repeated failure to recall the key details regarding what happened, in the opinion of the EAT, did not meet the low standards expected of a litigant in person entitling the employer to an award of costs against Ms Liddington.
Sarah Begley cautions: “This case serves as a useful reminder of the importance of considering language and formality in conducting proceedings as a ‘Litigant in Person’. Even though expectations of the standard of putting your case is at a lesser level, a failure to provide adequate details can be deemed unreasonable conduct and justify a costs award.”
For advice on any employment related matter and to discuss our Free Employment Health Check please contact Sarah Begley on 0121 733 4312 or firstname.lastname@example.org