What happens if the employer doesn't pay my tribunal award?

There can be few more stressful and demoralising experiences than enduring the employment tribunal process, succeeding in obtaining an award and then finding that your employer refuses to pay. One of the major weaknesses of the employment tribunal system to date has been the tribunal's lack of any legal power to enforce its own awards.

This is one area where the government has put in place changes that are making a difference. Since April 2016, if your employer fails to pay your award, you can complete a Penalty Enforcement Form, available from the Gov.UK website: Employment Tribunal: Penalty Enforcement.

You email the completed form to an enforcement officer at ETPenalties@bis.gsi.gov.uk and the enforcement officer will contact your employer on your behalf for payment. First, your employer gets a ‘Warning Notice’ and then if they fail to pay up within 28 days, they are liable for a financial penalty equal to half your award (minimum £100 and maximum £5,000). Sadly, this penalty goes to the Treasury, not to you, but at least this process means that you stand a better chance of recovering the amount the tribunal has awarded.

There is some evidence that the new system is starting to have an effect. By January 2017, around £83,000 of fines had been paid by employers, following 164 warnings and 60 penalty notices.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.