Over the past decade employment tribunal fees have been a talking point; not only amongst practitioners who practice employment law but also the individuals who wish to bring claims and businesses who defend them.
In 2013, the fees were introduced by the government with the aim of reducing the number of malicious and weak cases following much criticism that the system was unbalanced in favour of the claimant. Over the next three years following the introduction of the fees, concerns arose as the number of cases brought in the employment tribunal reduced by approximately 80 per cent. Whilst on the face of it this suggested that the introduction of the fees had worked in the sense that there were less spurious claims, there were fears among many due to the substantial reduction in claims, that the fees were unaffordable, even for those who had strong claims.
In 2017, in a ground-breaking case, the Supreme Court ruled that the level of the fees imposed by the government were unlawful, and that the government had acted ‘unconstitutionally’ in making the decision to introduce the fees. The fees were scrapped as a result, raising fears once again for many that many employees would bring unfounded claims and impact financially upon businesses.
This month the Ministry of Justice has indicated that since the scrapping of the fees, there has been a 90 per cent increase in claims. It has confirmed that it is considering the reintroduction of employment tribunal fees as a result. Philip Richardson, partner from Stephensons Solicitors LLP comments:
”At this stage it is not clear when fees will be re-introduced. What we do know is that many feel that some sort of compromise needs to be made. Previously claimants have had to pay up to £1,200 to take a claim to the employment tribunal, and for many people this was simply not affordable and meant that they could not pursue their claim, even if they had a strong claim. This prevented access to justice.
On the other hand, we have seen an overwhelming increase in claims over the past 12 months and the employment tribunals are finding it difficult to deal with demand. We have regrettably seen instances of simple applications to the court not being dealt with for many months when, previously, we would have had an answer in weeks.
In my view, what is needed is a new approach that is fair to both claimants and employers. The government could consider re-introducing a fees, but at a much more affordable rate. Hopefully, this will strike the right balance and make some individuals stop to think and take advice before lodging their claim.”
First published on The HR Director on 25th November 2018.