From today, fees are payable by employees bringing tribunal claims. The Government’s aim in introducing fees is to transfer around 33% of the £74m cost per annum of running the Tribunal system from the taxpayer to those who use the system. The Government says it's unfair for taxpayers to foot the bill for workers who choose to "escalate workplace disputes to a tribunal.”
The main types of fees will be a fee at issue of the claim or appeal, and a fee before the hearing. Type A claims, eg unpaid wages or holiday pay, now incur £160 when the claim is lodged, plus £230 for the hearing. For Type B claims, eg unfair dismissal, discrimination, or whistleblowing, the issue fee is £250, plus £950 for the hearing. If a claim consists of both unpaid wages and unfair dismissal, the higher fees apply.
The fee for an appeal is £400 when the appeal is lodged, plus £1200 for the hearing. Fees now also apply to counterclaims, reviews and judicial mediation.
Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunal Service remissions scheme, currently in force in the Civil Courts, will be extended to protect access to Tribunals for those who cannot afford to pay a fee.
While the introduction of fees may be music to the ear of many employers, The Federation of Small Businesses, while agreeing with the principle of employees bearing some of the cost of Tribunal claims, says that the fees may be too high. Meanwhile, The Institute of Employment Rights think tank warns that fees will add to a climate "in which it is extremely difficult for workers to receive compensation and support if they are treated unfairly by their employer."
Because of concerns for its members’ rights, Unison, which represents 1.3 million workers, has won permission from The Royal Courts of Justice for a Judicial Review over the introduction of fees. It is estimated that the new fee structure could affect up to 150,000 workers a year and Unison has pledged to pay the tribunal fees of its members. The hearing is set to go ahead in October.
Anything that speeds up the tribunal system or reduces claims will be welcomed by employers, and the payment of fees is expected to do this. However, another effect of the new regime may be to increase the value of settlement offers for low-value claims. Offering £500 as an economic offer to settle is not likely to be attractive to a claimant who has paid £1,200 to bring a claim.