This week the Ministry of Justice launched a consultation into the re-introduction of fees for employment tribunal claims and appeals to the Employment Appeal Tribunal. The consultation will close on 25 March 2024.
Employment Tribunal fees are not a new regime and indeed previously introduced back in 2013, but subsequently quashed in 2017, as a result of Unison pursuing a case against the government on the basis that the fees had a disproportionate impact on access to justice, writes Ami Naru.
What would the new fee regime look like?
A modest flat fee of £55 is being proposed to issue all claims regardless of length or complexity, or the number of claimants. Unlike the 2013 fee regime, an additional hearing fee is not proposed. Any claims for payment from the National Insurance Fund (usually where the employer is insolvent) would be exempt from tribunal.
Is the proposed regime fair?
The Ministry of Justice believes that a £55 fee would be proportionate and “generally affordable”. Also the existing civil court fee remission scheme would also be extended to the Employment tribunal and Appeal Tribunal, namely when Claimants income and savings fall below a certain threshold.
Why are Tribunal fees being proposed?
The government wishes to re-introduce fees for reasons of consistency with other civil courts, but also to raise funds to invest in ACAS dispute resolution and ultimately reducing the burden on taxpayers. There is also hope that the payment of a fee may act as a deterrent to bringing a claim and encourage parties to resolve their disputes via ACAS early conciliation instead. It is envisaged that the re-introduction of tribunal fees will generate around £1.5 million a year (which will probably barely cover the cost of the MOJ consultation!)
What about the election and who is in government next?
As this is a more straightforward fee regime, there would appear to be sufficient time to implement the proposal before the next election. Certainly, the consultation deadline of 25 March indicates a timetable of implementation this year. If Labour form the next government, it is not obvious they will reverse the fee regime as it’s a modest fee which is not likely to sway voters. Labour though could be influenced by Unions, who are likely to be supportive of the reintroduction of fees in order for their members to bring Tribunal claims
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This article was originally published on: 1 February 2024