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Employment Solicitor Paula Chan on whether tribunal fees will make it all about the money

By Practice Group Leader, Employment

The Ministry of Justice have now announced that there will be an online service for paying Employment tribunal fees from July this year. This follows the government’s announcement last year that it will introduce employment tribunal fees.

The payment of issue fees will be a huge shift in the way our justice system deals with tribunal claims as claimants are not currently charged a fee to issue tribunal claims. The new fee issues  may lead to a greater focus on money and compensation. However, is the value of a claim only ever financial?

The answer is no. Successful claimants in addition to asking for financial compensation can ask the tribunal to make “non-financial orders”. In Discrimination Claims a tribunal can make a “declaration” and/or an appropriate “recommendation”. A declaration is an order stating that the claimant has been unlawfully discriminated in the manner claimed. A recommendation is an order requiring a respondent to take specific steps for the purpose of removing or reducing the adverse effect of the discrimination. For example, a tribunal can recommend that the respondent introduces an equal opportunities policy or re-trains staff. A tribunal might even order the respondent to publish the tribunal decision on the respondent’s intranet accessed by thousands of employees, as happened in a recent case of mine.

At the core of many discrimination claims is unlawful treatment by one person against another as a consequence of simple errors, ignorance or unconscious prejudices. For those whose claims have little financial value, who wish to pursue claims simply out of principle or to obtain public recognition of unfair treatment a declaration may be the most important remedy at their disposal. A recommendation on the other hand might offer a long term solution and lead to a change in attitudes and behaviour. Recommendations by their very nature require action and they require change. As a result they can help raise awareness, fight discrimination and make a difference to more than one person. Compensatory awards do not always achieve such end results.

The introduction of tribunal fees may create a system where money becomes the focal point. However, claimants should not underestimate the importance of non-financial remedies. Although of no tangible financial worth the value of such remedies lies in the opportunity to make a difference.

By Employment Solicitor Paula Chan.