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Employment Tribunal Deposit Orders Must Be Affordable

Employment Tribunals (ETs) can, in certain circumstances, require the payment of deposits as a condition of proceeding with a complaint. However, as one case clearly showed, deposits must be affordable and must not act as a bar on access to justice.

The case concerned a youth and community worker who was dismissed by her local authority employer on capability grounds after 30 years of service. She lodged a number of claims with an ET, including race and age discrimination, harassment and victimisation.

All but one of her claims were, however, ultimately struck out on the basis that, in the absence of legal advice, she had consistently failed to put forward a coherent case. She was permitted to proceed with a single direct race discrimination claim, but only on payment of a £250 deposit within 21 days. When that payment was not made, that claim too was struck out.

In upholding her appeal against the latter decision, the Employment Appeal Tribunal noted evidence of her past dependence on state benefits. The ET had no evidence before it as to her current financial position or her ability to pay. In the circumstances, the only appropriate order was that she could proceed with her remaining claim on payment of a nominal deposit.