02 August 2017
Tribunal Fees Abolished by Supreme Court
We have long argued that a Government scheme demanding fees from individuals to lodge a claim at an employment tribunal was an unacceptable barrier to justice and deeply unfair.
Now the Supreme Court has echoed our views, ruling these fees are unlawful and discriminatory, following a challenge brought by Unison.
Statistics show that since fees of up to £1,200 were imposed for claims such as unfair dismissal, equal pay and redundancy, there had been a 70 per cent drop in cases brought to tribunal. Some of the worst impacted have been women because they are more likely to bring claims for a discriminatory dismissal - especially for pregnancy or maternity related reasons.
Following the ruling, ministers pledged to scrap the fees and refund nearly £27million on around 250,000 cases where fees have been paid since July 2013.
The decision to abolish the scheme is therefore extremely important, but what does it mean for those looking to bring claims, those who have previously brought claims while the regime was in place and those who decided not to pursue claims due to the fees they would have to pay? The judgment was only handed down on 26 July and a number of questions arise.
Q. What does the ruling mean for future claims?
A. There will be no requirement to pay an issue fee or hearing fee in respect of any claim or any subsequent appeal.
Q. What about fees already paid?
A. Fees paid when the regime was in place will be refunded (to the paying party) and the Lord Chancellor has given an undertaking to this effect. What is not clear at this stage is how this will take effect in practice and what mechanism will be used. This is something that the government will need to consider and we are awaiting further information on this.
It is likely to take some time as there will be a large number of refunds to be dealt with. It is not clear if the refunds will be generated automatically or if they will need to be applied for. It is likely evidence will be needed to show that a claim was brought and fees were paid. When a claim is issued it is given a case number by the Tribunal. This number will link to the case file which will show when the claim was lodged and whether fees were paid. This number will be on all of the correspondence sent by the Tribunal.
There may be a form that needs to be submitted online to apply for refunds but this has not as yet been confirmed.
Q. What if I need to submit a claim urgently? Can I still do this online and will it still require me to pay a fee?
A. If you need to file a claim urgently online then you should check the Tribunal Service’s site and follow any directions given there if the online service is not available. You should not have to pay any fee.
We will be providing further updates on this as things progress.
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Wednesday 8th March 2017