From today Monday 29 July 2013, claims filed with the Employment Tribunal will need to be accompanied by an issue fee.
Depending on the type of claim, that fee will either be £160 or £250.
In addition to an issue fee, a Claimant will also need to pay a hearing fee on being provided with details of the hearing, when, depending on the type of claim, the fee will be either £230 or £950. Different provisions apply for multi-party claims.
So, anybody wishing to pursue a claim for Unfair Dismissal or a Discrimination complaint will need to pay an issue fee of £250 and, if their case proceeds through to listing, a hearing fee on top of £950.
There is a (complicated) scheme for remission of all or part of the fee payable for those with low incomes, and applications for remission can either be made at the time the fee is payable, or, (after payment) to seek to recover all or part of that fee as paid.
This is all bound to have an initial downward pressure on Employment Tribunal claims. People will be put off by the fees; and some groups will be more adversely affected than others. Just when your household budget is most stretched on the arrival of a new baby, the advent of fees for those with maternity claims is particularly inapposite.
However, there is provision for the Tribunal fees to be recoverable in the event that the Claimant is successful, on application to the Tribunal. And the arrival of fees may add pressure to some employers to look seriously to settle claims before Tribunal claims are taken, and more likely before the hearing fee is incurred (to avoid the burden of reimbursing those fees).
Though the concept of Employment Tribunal fees was raised by the Government some time ago, the fine detail about implementation of the fee scheme has only recently been published, with limited time before the launch date. Our calls to two Employment Tribunals last Friday revealed they were ill prepared and gave conflicting views as to how they would deal with hand delivered ET forms from today.
This all means that there will be inevitable chaos for at least the first few months of the scheme. To add to this sense of chaos, the Government are reported to have undertaken to repay all Employment Tribunal fees paid if the current judicial review on-going in Scotland about the scheme is successful.
Are fees a good thing? Not in my view. The Government wanted them to cover the cost of the ET system. Nobody else was in favour. They hit the most vulnerable employees, many of whom fall outside the remission scheme and can ill afford the cost, and the new scheme may well be viewed as sending a message to some employers that poor treatment may not be challenged..
Will case numbers reduce? Yes, initially. But in time, I’m not so sure these changes will have the effect some expect, as there are already some inventive schemes in place to aid Claimants through funding Employment Tribunal fees and/or insuring against being unable to recover those fees if they lose their claim and the remission system should become better known.
By Edward Cooper, Practice Group Leader, Employment.
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