Review of employment tribunal fees

23 July 2015

The Ministry of Justice has announced that the government has begun its planned review of the impact and effectiveness of employment tribunal fees and the fee remission scheme.

The fee system was introduced two years ago with three objectives:

  • to transfer some of the costs of operatingthe tribunals from the taxpayer to those that use the service,
  • to encourage the use of alternative dispute resolution services,
  • to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the tribunals.

There is a simple two-tier fee system currently in place, with claimants paying a claim fee of £160 to lodge a simple ‘Type A’ claim and a further £230 for the claim to be heard. For ‘Type B’ claims such as unfair dismissal and discrimination, the claim fee is £250 and the hearing fee is £950.

The review will take into account a wide range of evidence including:

  • tribunal data on case volumes, case progression and case outcomes,
  • qualitative research on the views of tribunal users,
  • the general downward trend in the number of cases appearing at tribunals before the fees were introduced,
  • any consequences arising as a result of an improved economy on the number of people being dismissed,
  • to what extent there has been discouragement of weak or unmeritorious claims,
  • whether there has been any impact because of changes in employment law,
  • any other reasons for changes in user behaviour.

The review is expected to be completed later this year, after which the Ministry of Justice will consult on any proposals for reforms to the fees and remissions scheme.

Although there is a fee remission scheme for low earners and those on certain benefits, the trade union UNISON challenged the fees regime in the Court of Appeal by way of an
application for a Judicial Review last month, claiming it discriminated against lower paid workers, and so indirectly discriminated against female workers, and was also a
barrier to access to justice.

UNISON had been criticised at an earlier hearing for only advancing anecdotal evidence, with no actual witnesses to say
that they had been prevented from bringing an employment tribunal claim because of the fees regime. In spite of this, the union again failed to call any witnesses at this latest
hearing.

No judgment was given at the end of the hearing, but the Court suggested that it “may take some time” to issue a decision given the “interesting and difficult” points that had been raised.

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