It has been reported that the government is looking at re-introducing fees for bringing claims in the employment tribunal. Fees were abolished following UNISON’s legal challenge to their introduction, on the basis that they denied claimants access to justice.
Fees for bringing claims in the employment tribunal were introduced in July 2013. Fees started at £160 for lodging a claim and increased to between £230 and £950 for hearings. As a result, the number of claims being brought dropped dramatically, by around 80%.
After numerous legal hearings, the Supreme Court ruled in 2017 that such fees were unlawful. The government was criticised in the judgment for introducing a fee structure which denied claimants access to justice. However, the Court stopped short of outlawing fees altogether.
Anyone who paid a fee to bring a claim in the employment tribunal is entitled to a refund and, to date, refunds of almost £16 million have been paid out.
The Legal Gazette reported earlier this month that a civil servant at the Ministry of Justice had said he was confident a new fee system could be designed which would be proportionate and progressive while helping to offset costs of the court system. However, he denied there were any immediate plans for the re-introduction of fees.
While the government may be temporarily distracted by Brexit, it seems to be a question of when, not if, employment tribunal fees are re-introduced.