Ordering a former SPCA general manager to pay $7000 in legal costs could put employees off going to the Employment Relations Authority, says a union.

David Lloyd-Barker took his former employer to the ERA after being made redundant, months after applying for the role of CEO.

Last September the ERA found largely in favour of the SPCA after a hearing on three personal grievance claims by Mr Lloyd-Barker.

It also issued a ruling yesterday that Mr Lloyd-Barker should pay $7000 in legal fees.

Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Union secretary Andrew Little said the ruling and others like it could silence workers who have a valid grievance.

"I have real concerns about the level of costs coming out of the Employment Relations Authority," Mr Little said.

A quick glance at the Department of Labour's website shows a long list of cases where employers have been awarded costs ranging in the thousands.

One employee was awarded to pay $10,000 in legal costs, however the Authority ruled that some of the evidence introduced at the hearing had been "fabricated" and it had taken the Authority a long time to investigate it.

Mr Little said the amounts awarded by the ERA in the past five years had increased.

"One effect of this is it might persuade people not to pursue [a case] when they have a legitimate claim because they're fearful of having to pay costs awarded against them," Mr Little said.

However, numbers from the Employment and Manufacturers Association (EMA) show the number of unjustified disadvantage cases rose by 26 per cent and personal grievance claims rose by 11 per cent.

EMA employment services manager David Lowe said employers were paying thousands of dollars as 'go away money' for meritless claims because they couldn't afford the risk or the cost of a court case.

The SPCA spent a total of $15,000 on legal costs and had offered Mr Lloyd-Barker $10,000 to drop his case before the hearing began. Mr Lloyd-Barker rejected the offer.

SPCA national president Bob Kerridge was involved in the case personally and said yesterday that he hoped the award of costs would signal the end of the case.

He said the thousands that the SPCA spent on legal fees could have spent the money on helping animals in need.

"We could have done a lot of things with $15,000," Mr Kerridge said.

Mr Lloyd-Barker said the SPCA had publicised their pro-bono legal panel and questioned where the legal fees came from.

However, Mr Kerridge said the panel only fought animal abuse cases for the trust, not employment issues.

Mr Lloyd-Barker said yesterday that the amount was "ridiculous" but he would be able to pay it, despite three months of being unemployed recently.

"I shall pay it the best I can. It's a lot of money," Mr Lloyd-Barker said.

In the Authority's finding, released yesterday, SPCA lawyer Paul Wicks said that the charitable trust had spent $15,000 preparing for the one day hearing.

In his ruling, ERA member Ken Anderson said the fact that Mr Lloyd-Barker rejected an offer of money before the hearing had a bearing on the amount of the SPCA's legal costs he should pay.

Mr Anderson also acknowledged that there had been no accounts submitted by the SPCA's lawyer, Paul Wicks.

"Mr Wicks has responded to this, submitting that documentary evidence of his costs to the SPCA have not been provided because of Mr Lloyd-Barker's earlier propensity to place certain information on his Facebook website.

"Normally, the Authority would wish to see evidence of costs incurred but given Mr Wicks is an experienced and credible practitioner, I accept his undertaking that the expenses incurred can be proven in these circumstances, given the experience of the Authority in regard to the costs incurred for cases such as this, I am prepared to accept that the sum of the expenses submitted in reasonable," Mr Anderson said.

Mr Lloyd-Barker maintains "it was never about the money".

Asked why he did not accept the $10,000 offer from the SPCA, Mr Lloyd-Barker said it was about principles.