This instalment relates to the controversial introduction of Employment Tribunal fees with effect from 29 July 2013.
As of 29 July claimants will be required to pay a fee in order to lodge an Employment Tribunal claim and a further fee will be payable by the claimant in order for the claim to proceed to a hearing.
Whilst it was not particularly surprising that the Government decided to introduce Employment Tribunal fees, the fees levels are surprisingly high. The following fees will apply:-
- type A claims (including unlawful deductions, notice pay, equal pay and redundancy pay) will cost £160 to lodge the claim, with a £230 hearing fee; and
- type B claims (including unfair dismissal and discrimination) will attract a £250 fee to lodge the claim and a £950 hearing fee.
In conjunction with the introduction of fees there will be a fee remissions system which attempts to ensure that access to justice is not reduced through the introduction of Tribunal Fees. This will apply to individuals in receipt of certain benefits or who have a disposable monthly income below a certain level. The income of a claimant's partner will be taken into account though when determining whether a fee remission is given.
My view is that the introduction of Employment Tribunal fees will result in two things:-
- a significant reduction in the number of Tribunal claims raised (186,300 claims were raised from April 2011 to March 2012. It will be very interesting to see how much this figure falls by);
- many employers faced with a claim will lodge their response to the claim then merely wait and see if the claimant pays the hearing fee before deciding whether to make a settlement offer. It may well be that many claimants will be willing to pay the fee for lodging the claim in the hope that a settlement offer will be forthcoming. However, they may be less willing or able to pay a hearing fee of nearly £1,000 (which is likely to be payable 4 to 6 weeks before the hearing) particularly if they have concerns regarding the strength of their claim.
The Government have published an Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal Fees Stakeholder Factsheet which provides a summary of the fees system and is well worth a read. It explains the rationale behind introducing the fees, sets out what fee is payable when and, from a very practical point of view, provides information regarding how the fees can be paid.
It should be noted that judicial review proceedings are pending on the question of whether the fee scheme is lawful. As such, it is possible that the fee scheme will be amended or scrapped at some point down the line. For now though, it will be introduced on 29 July.