Despite opposition from lawyers and trade unions, the end of July will see the introduction of fees for all Employment and Employment Appeal Tribunals. From this point onwards employees will have to pay an upfront fee to submit a claim, and then a further fee to proceed to a hearing. The exact figures will vary from case to case, but will be between £160 and £250 for the initial claim and between £230 and £950 for the hearing fee, depending on the nature and complexity of the claim. If there are multiple claimants these figures increase dramatically.
At the time of writing, there is no fee at all to submit a claim to an employment tribunal. The purpose of the new structure aims to discourage claimants from taking a chance with an unfounded claim as they are unlikely to lose anything in the process. The courts will have the power to order the losing side to pay the fee costs for the successful party, increasing the risk for employers. The fees may discourage employees and unions from bringing claims that have little chance of success and partially take some of the burden off the crowded tribunal system. On the other hand, concerns have been raised about the fees increasing the complexity of settling costs and sorting out disputes over a relatively low sum of money – say for instance, a figure less than the actual fee itself – once more putting unnecessary pressure on the tribunal system. While applicants with a low income can apply for a fee remission, there is also unease over the impact this structure will have on the accessibility of justice to those who cannot afford the increasing prices.
Following protests and petitions it has recently been announced that the request for an interim order to stop the system from being introduced was refused, and the fees will be going ahead at the end of July. However, there will be a full hearing later this year to decide on the legality of the scheme. If this hearing decides against the Ministry of Justice then all fees that have already been paid will be refunded.