Data from salary benchmarking website Emolument earlier this year showed bonuses in some City jobs are set for dramatic falls. Currency traders could see a 42.9 percent drop in bonuses during the next payout season in 2015, while emerging market and equity derivative traders could see bonuses slashed by 30 percent.
Bankers' bonuses have been in the spotlight this year as European regulators have looked to clamp down on what they view as large rewards that fuel excessive risk taking. The European Union unveiled rules last year that limit bonuses to no more than a banker's salary, or double that level with shareholder approval.
Banks have also been under fire from financial regulators who slapped five global banks with $3.4 billion worth of fines over the rigging of key foreign exchange markets.
Read MoreFX bonuses set to plunge on probes, low volumes
Against this backdrop, Hayward said banks might be reluctant to pay out the bigger bonuses that employees are expecting.
"I think banks are conscious about public perception of bonus levels. I also think they need to improve their balance sheets and profitability," Hayward said.
But some lawyers disagree with Nockolds' forecast of a rise in legal challenges this Christmas, suggesting that cases like Commerzbank in 2012 are unusual.
"While some employees may be unhappy if they experience a lean year, over the years the courts have made it clear that that the key test – to demonstrate that the award was irrational – requires a very high threshold," Monica Kurnatowska, employment partner at Baker & McKenzie, told CNBC by phone.