Are Employment Tribunal Fees returning?
The government are currently consulting on reintroducing fees for Employment Tribunal claims. This comes almost 7 years after they were abolished when the Supreme Court found the previous charging regime was unlawful. Sarah Begley, Solicitor in our Employment team, discusses what reintroducing fees could mean and why these were abolished in the first place.
The government’s rationale is for tribunal users to pay towards the running costs of the Tribunals, and this would be broadly on a par with other court users.
Sarah Begley considers the background to Tribunal fees.
“Fees were introduced by the coalition government, and it is fair to say they were hugely unpopular. Issue and hearing fees started at £390 for straightforward matters but for the more complicated disputes, the charges totalled £1,200. The Employment Appeal Tribunal attracted total fees of £1,600”.
Unison successfully challenged the fee regime which was withdrawn in 2017 on the basis that a disproportionate number of people, particularly those on low incomes, were prevented from securing justice.
“The previous costs regime was viewed as a barrier to accessing justice for many and it is easy to see why. The statistics at the time showed that claims fell by two thirds after fees were introduced.”
However, the consultation proposes much lower fees. A £55 issue fee would be payable on bringing a claim to the tribunal, which would remain at £55 where a claim is brought by multiple claimants. An appeal to the EAT would attract a £55 fee. Crucially, no hearing fees are planned.
Furthermore, help with fees would be given to those ‘most in need’.
The proposal is predicted to generate between £1.3m-£1.7m per annum against an £80m annual running cost of the Employment Tribunals. Evidently, funding is needed in one way or another.
“On the face it, it is hard to see how the proposal will be opposed. Going forward the key issues are whether if the reintroduction of fees gets the green light they remain modest and, will the proposal be swiftly overturned should Labour win the next election”.