Employment Tribunals: What a difference a day makes

The world of the Employment Lawyer is about to change. At the end of this month, for the first time, the Employment Tribunal will charge a fee to anyone wishing to submit a claim.

This decision has been met with huge controversy. The idea that employees will now have to pay to enforce their statutory rights in respect of unfair dismissal, redundancy pay and discrimination etc has not received universal approval. However, given the current economic situation, it is not surprising the Government is trying to find ways of recovering some of the cost of Employment Tribunal cases.

History lesson

Industrial Tribunals were first established under the Industrial Training Act 1964; initially they dealt with appeals by employers against training levies. The powers and scope of Industrial Tribunals grew and they began to deal with all kinds of workplace disputes including unfair dismissal, salary rights, redundancy pay, discrimination and others. In 1998, Industrial Tribunals became Employment Tribunals and their jurisdiction increased further.

Employment Tribunals have never charged a fee to employees wanting to bring a claim against their employer. However, from July 29, 2013, this will change. Employees will be charged a fee when they submit their claim form and a further Hearing fee before their claim comes to trial. The amount of the fee will depend on the type of claim.

Will there definitely be fees?

Unions have sought to challenge the introduction of fees at the Employment Tribunal stating that they are disproportionate and discriminatory. At the time of writing, we do not know whether that challenge has been successful. What we do know is that time rushes ever forward and it would therefore be prudent to expect fees to be payable from July 29, whilst at the same time keeping our eyes peeled for any last minute reprieve.

Will everyone have to pay a fee?

Whilst there will be provisions in place for employees who cannot afford Employment Tribunal fees, these exemptions will be limited. Also, the Employment Tribunal expect employers to refund fees to employees once their claims are successful; however the employee must find the money “up front” to submit their claim in the first place. Only time will tell how successful employees will be in recovering the fees they have paid from their employer.

Will fees make that much difference?

By way of example, if we had two identical employees, with two identical claims of unfair dismissal and one waited until July 29 to submit their claim:

Claim sent on or before July 28 2013
No Issue Fee – £0
No Hearing Fee – £0
Total – £0

Claim sent on or after July 29 2013
Issue Fee – £250.00
Hearing Fee – £950.00
Total – £1,200

The moral of the story?

As ever, your view of the Employment Tribunal and fees will most likely depend upon whether you are an employer or an employee. For employers, the introduction of fees (along with a number of other measures) may impact upon any decisions made in respect of staff. For employees, the introduction of fees may make the difference between whether they can or cannot afford to pursue their claims.