Islanders who have been awarded compensation by the Jersey Employment Tribunal now have the assurance that they can personally pursue recovery of their awards in the courts.
An ambiguous provision in the Employment Law meant that until a recent judgment by the Royal Court, people could find that despite winning their case in the Tribunal, the law was unclear as to how the successful party should seek to enforce the Tribunal's decision in the event the losing party failed or refused to pay.
The clarification was given by the Bailiff, Michael Birt, in a judgment handed down recently in the case of Luxicabs Limited v Baal. Mr Birt confirmed that, in making an award, the Tribunal creates a debt between the two parties that can then be enforced by the successful party in the appropriate court.
Collas Crill represented Mary Baal in the Tribunal and the Royal Court. We believe it is important that the Court has confirmed that a successful party is entitled to pursue enforcement of their award and has made the process clearer for those who embark on the Tribunal process and for their legal representatives.
In 2010 Mrs Baal brought proceedings in the Employment Tribunal for unfair dismissal from Luxicabs for alleged gross misconduct. Her claim was successful and she was awarded compensation which Luxicabs then failed to pay. Mrs Baal sued them on the award in the Petty Debts Court which again gave judgment in her favour. Luxicabs then appealed against the judgment to the Royal Court.
In the Royal Court, Luxicabs argued that the Tribunal's decision had been erroneous and unreasonable and that they should have been entitled to re-open its findings before the Petty Debts Court. They also argued that because they had not had a fair trial before the Tribunal they were entitled to a full hearing on the merits before the Petty Debts Court. The Bailiff ruled that these arguments were untenable and dismissed the appeal, meaning that the Petty Debts Court judgment stands. The Bailiff said that the court had no ability to revisit or review the Tribunal's decision.
There was one issue that concerned the Court, which was one of statutory interpretation. One interpretation of the relevant provision of the Employment Law was that proceedings to enforce an award of the Employment Tribunal have to be brought by the Tribunal itself. However, the Court was of the view that this result would be "absurd" and confirmed that the position is that the party with the benefit of a Tribunal award (in practice usually the employee) is entitled to bring a court action to recover the amount due. As a postscript, the Bailiff urged that provision be made at future tribunal hearings for the proceedings to be recorded to ensure that parties who may have an arguable appeal are able to advance that appeal with the benefit of a record of the proceedings.
The judgment also represents a word of caution to a losing party taking a similar approach to an award made against it by the Tribunal because the Bailiff also ordered Luxicabs to pay the costs of the appeal that had been incurred by Mrs Baal.
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