The Government has confirmed its proposals for the introduction of Employment Tribunal Fees following public consultation. It is anticipated that the new fee structure will be put into effect in Summer 2013.

Currently no fees are payable by those wishing to bring a claim. The objective of introducing fees is for Tribunal users to bear more of the cost burden and to encourage alternative methods of dispute resolution, such as mediation. Fees are payable by Applicants in advance.

Fee levels will be determined by the type of claim. The fee for more straightforward claims (“Level 1 Claims”), such as claims for unauthorised deduction from wages, will be £160 for issue and £230 for the hearing. The more complicated, Level 2 Claims, including unfair dismissal, discrimination, whistleblowing, will be subject to an issue fee of £230 and a hearing fee of £950.

In addition, there will be charges for bringing certain applications.

In the Employment Appeal Tribunal, there will be an issue fee of £400 and a fee of £1,200 payable for a full hearing.

No issue or hearing fees will be payable by Respondents but Employment Tribunal judges will have a discretion to award costs against the unsuccessful party and order them to pay the fees paid by the successful party.

Employment Tribunal – Recommendation for New Rules

In November 2011, Mr. Justice Underhill, former president of the Employment Appeal Tribunal, was tasked with carrying out a comprehensive review of the Employment Tribunal Rules of Procedure. The aim was for him to produce a revised procedural code to ensure efficiency in handling claims.

The proposed new rules have now been published and are shorter and are aimed at being more accessible.

One of the key changes is that there will be an initial sift by an Employment Judge after the ET1 (claim form) and ET3 (the response to the claim) have been lodged. This will allow for the early consideration of whether there is an arguable complaint and defence within the Employment Tribunal’s jurisdiction. The Employment Judge could then either make case management directions or strike out a party’s case for having no reasonable prospects of success.

Respondents will be able to apply for an extension of time after the deadline for the ET3 has expired. Currently, an ET3 received by the Employment Tribunal outside of the time limit is automatically rejected and default judgment entered. It is now proposed that where an ET3 is submitted late together with an application to extend, the time limit that the ET3 is not rejected pending the outcome of the application. Aside from proposing changes to the Employment Tribunal Rules, Mr. Justice Underhill also recommended changes to primary legislation. He suggested that the Civil Liability (Contribution) Act should be amended to apply to discrimination claims brought in the Employment Tribunals. This would empower Employment Tribunals to apportion compensation between two or more respondents where both are found jointly and severally liable for an act of discrimination.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has announced that there will be a period of consultation to consider these proposed changes prior to their implementation.

How to Handle Redundancy for Employees who are Pregnant or on Maternity Leave

ACAS has issued a “Good Practice Guide in Managing Redundancy for Pregnant Employees or those on Maternity Leave”. This guide is useful but the section on suitable alternative vacancies has been criticised as being too simplistic. It fails to highlight that not only employees on maternity leave are to be offered a suitable vacancy before any other employee but that employees on additional paternity leave will have equivalent rights to priority over suitable vacancies.

Annual Employment Tribunal Statistics 2011/2012

From 1 April 2011 to 31 March 2012, the Employment Tribunals accepted 186,300 claims, a 15% fall on the number received in the previous year, and 21% lower than the number in 2009/2010. In 2011/2012, the Employment Appeal Tribunal received 2,170 appeals and disposed of 2,220 appeals. This compares with 2,050 receipts and 2,000 disposals in 2010/2011. The average unfair dismissal award awarded by the Employment Tribunal was £9,133 and the median average unfair dismissal award awarded by the Employment Tribunal was £4,560.

Redundancy Handling Booklet

The updated ACAS Redundancy Handling publication provides advice for employers on conducting a redundancy process. A new section of the booklet provides more in depth guidance on the role of the people who are tasked with informing and liaising with employees who are at risk of redundancy.