Now that the dust has slightly settled, it is necessary to review the current position in relation to Employment Tribunal fees.
In July 2013, fees were introduced by the coalition government in order to reduce insignificant, less valuable or more risky claims.
Issue fees depended on the type of claim, being either £160 or £250. There was also a further fee or £230 or £950, if the claim proceeded to a hearing.
As a result of fees being introduced, the number of claims in the Employment Tribunal decreased rapidly, suggesting that a number of supposedly weaker claims were not brought. However, it was consistently argued that many accounts of employer misconduct were going uncontested.
On 26 July 2017, in the case of Unison v Lord Chancellor, the Supreme Court held that the Employment Tribunals and Employment Appeals Tribunal Fees Order 2013 had set fees too high and blocked access to justice for employees.
Lord Reed explained that whilst fees were not unlawful, they had the result of undermining a law that could be traced back to the Magna Carta.
Practical Effect of the Finding
As a result of ending the fees regime, the government has promised to reimburse fees to Claimants, the aggregate of which has been approximated at £30m. In addition, in the short-term at least, the Tribunal can no longer rely on fees to support the running of the system.
However, as at the date of this release, there has been no announcement in relation to the reimbursement and it remains to be seen whether fees will be reintroduced in a different form.
The immediate cessation of the Tribunal fees following the decision means that a significant deterrent to low value claims has been removed. Businesses are encouraged to review their practices to make certain that they are being managed fairly, particularly in relation to disciplinary and dismissal procedures.
It remains to be seen whether fees will be re-introduced in a different form.