A great day for Britain's worst bosses?

Ed Jenneson

The commencement of fees in the Employment Tribunal

When Industrial Tribunals (now Employment Tribunals) were created in the 1960s it was intended that workplace disputes could be resolved in a relatively informal and impartial manner with a tribunal chairman.  Each party would arrive at the Tribunal, usually without legal representation and the Chairman would decide whether the Employer has acted unfairly or not.  However, things have changed significantly over the years and Tribunals are now chaired by Judges and legal representation is almost always required due to the complex legislation and case law evolving over many years.

Until today (29 July), claims in the Employment Tribunal were free to issue and should either party wish for legal representation, they would bear their own costs (apart from in certain exceptional circumstances).

As stated, as of today employees will have to pay £160 to submit a claim which relates to unpaid wages or other smaller disputes or £250 to submit a claim for claims of unfair dismissal or discrimination.  In addition to the issue fee, there will be a further fee known as a "hearing fee" of either £230 or £950 if the case goes ahead. 

Unsurprisingly, Employers have welcomed the fees as a way of "weeding out" weak claims, but one union said the move was "draconian" and Unite the union said the measures would make British workers "some of the worst protected in the EU".  This is somewhat dramatic from the Unions although the change cannot be underestimated and another Union, the GMB, will stage a protest outside an Employment Tribunal in central London later.

The rationale behind the introduction of fees is to help to reduce the number of speculative claims and also assist the taxpayer in fully funding a legal system which cost £74 million pounds last year.

It should be noted that claimants unable to pay the fees may apply to have the tribunal fees reduced or waived under the fee remission scheme.  This is based on a number of factors and a letter from the job centre will be required before any fees are waived.

In addition to a fee in the Employment Tribunal, should either party wish to appeal the decision of an Employment Tribunal, they will now have to submit a fee of £400 to lodge an appeal and another £1,200 for a full hearing. Again, this was previously free of charge.

We will have to wait and see whether or not this radical change in the Employment Tribunal system will have the desired effect (which is to reduce claims by 25%).  Our view is that many Trade Unions will pay the fees on behalf of their members (Unite have already said that they will) and also many Claimant firms will also pay the fee with the a view to recouping it on a "no win no fee" basis. 

Posted on: 29/07/2013

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.

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