The Return of Employment Tribunal Fees?
On 29 January 2024 it was announced that an open consultation was to be launched by the Government regarding the possibility of re-introducing fees in the Employment Tribunals and Employment Appeal Tribunals.
This is not the first time fees have been considered in the Employment Tribunal system. Previously, a fee system was introduced in 2013 under which individuals were charged fees of between £390 and £1,600 to bring an Employment Tribunal claim (or to appeal a judgment) depending on the type of claim brought. This resulted in a drastic decrease in Tribunal claims (53% reduction in the first year) and Trade Union criticism that the fees deterred claims and hindered access to justice. A 2017 Supreme Court ruling upheld this latter point and the previous fee regime was abolished as a result the same year.
The newly proposed fees are much lower than the fees introduced in 2013 – it is proposed that individuals will make a standard payment of £55 when issuing a claim or appealing a judgment. The Consultation paper refers to the crucial services the Employment Tribunals provide and suggests it is appropriate that some of the costs of running the Employment Tribunals and Employment Appeal Tribunals should be recouped from those who use the system, and who can afford to do so. It is estimated that the proposed fees could generate revenue of approximately £1.3m - £1.7m a year.
The paper goes on to state that the Ministry of Justice has carefully considered the 2017 Supreme Court ruling on fees and has endeavoured to ensure that the proposed fees are proportionate and affordable. For those individuals who cannot afford to pay the proposed fees, as with other court and tribunal jurisdictions where fees are already utilised, the Help with Fees scheme exists to provide individuals on low incomes with financial support towards the cost of their court or tribunal fees (subject to eligibility criteria).
Commentators have suggested that the charging of a fee may reduce the amount of “chancers” bringing spurious tribunal claims in the hope of financial reward. However, despite the proposed fees being much lower than the previous fees, Trade Unions have spoken out criticising the proposals, stating that “ministers are taking the side of bad bosses, not working people” and arguing that the proposed fees will make it harder for working people to seek justice. Others have suggested that although £55 may seem a modest sum, for individuals who have recently lost their primary source of income this may not be the case in reality.
The consultation on this matter is to run for a period of 8 weeks from 29 January 2024 to 25 March 2024. It is proposed that, if implemented following the consultation, fees will become payable from November 2024.
At Rollits, our dedicated Employment Team assist both individuals and employers in bringing and responding to Employment Tribunal claims. In both cases it is important to act promptly in seeking advice, as meeting Tribunal deadlines can be critical in successfully pursuing and defending such claims.