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The Government has announced that it is consulting on re-introducing employment tribunal fees despite the Supreme Court throwing this out in 2017.
The Government has announced it has opened a consultation on introducing a ‘modest’ one-off fee of £55 in the employment tribunal and the employment tribunal system.
In 2017 the Supreme Court quashed a previous tribunal fees regime because it “effectively prevents access to justice, and is therefore unlawful”. The regime under which people had to pay as much as £250 for a claim and £950 for a tribunal hearing was introduced in 2013.
The TUC says that by seeking to reimpose fees the government is taking the side of bad bosses over workers exercising their rights and states that last time the Government tried it claims fell by two thirds.
In the year after the fees were introduced in 2013, the number of sex discrimination cases being pursued at employment tribunal has fell by 91%. Pregnancy discrimination claims for the period April-June 2014, compared with April-June 2013 pre-fees, were down 46% and unfair dismissal fell by 74%.
Part of the reason for introducing fees is to reduce claims due to the large backlog in cases. Since Covid the backlog of employment tribunal has risen and the average waiting time for a case to be heard is around a year.
TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said: “This is another example of taking the side of bad bosses, not working people.
“Now, the government wants to make it even harder for working people to seek justice if they face discrimination, unfair dismissal or withheld wages.
“All working people should be able to exercise their rights. But introducing fees for tribunals puts yet another hurdle in the way of those seeking justice at their most vulnerable moment.”
Kate Palmer, Employment Services Director at Peninsula, says: “Paying to bring an employment tribunal claim is nothing new. Between 2013 and 2017, if an employee wanted to bring a claim, they had to pay to do so. But the government acknowledges that the right balance was not achieved previously, and the fees were actually a barrier to people being able to seek justice. That’s why the amount proposed this time around is now much lower – a one-off payment of £55.
“Whilst we will have to wait to see what responses are received to this consultation, it is likely that unions will still raise concerns despite the reduced fee this time around.”
She added: “If fees are introduced, it is likely to be looked upon favourably by employers who may feel that charging a fee will reduce the number of spurious claims being brought, thereby leaving them with more time for running their business.
“However, it remains to be seen whether the proposed fee is at such a level that it will deter claims, because this was at the heart of the union claim that was brought last time.
“There will be some exemptions to the fees, meaning not everyone will have to pay and as the proposed amount is so much lower, we will have to wait to see whether it will have the same dramatic reduction in tribunal claims that we saw last time fees were introduced.”