The Ministry of Justice has published its response to the consultation on charging fees to bring and continue claims in the employment tribunal. The response sets out the Government’s intention to introduce such fees in the latter half of 2013. Fees will be charged in two stages, the first at the issue of the claim, and the second prior to the hearing. The remission system, which currently operates in the civil courts, will be extended to the employment tribunals, so that those on low incomes will be excused payment. Furthermore, tribunals will be given a discretionary power to order the losing party to pay any costs of the successful party incurred by way of fees.
The proposed fee structure envisages two levels of fee at the employment tribunal stage. Level 1 claims are, in the main, straightforward claims for defined sums, such as unauthorised deductions from wages and redundancy payments. Such claims would attract a fee of £160 when the claim is issued and a further £230 at the hearing stage. Level 2 claims are those involving more complex issues, including unfair dismissal, discrimination and equal pay. Level 2 claims attract an issue fee of £250 and a hearing fee of £950. There is also a fee structure for multiple claims. Claims involving more than one and up to ten claimants would be charged twice the applicable fee for a single claim; those involving 11-200 claimants would be charged four times the single few; and those involving over 200 claimants six times the single fee. At the EAT, there would be an appeal fee of £400 and a hearing fee of £1200.
The Government argues that fees can encourage parties to think through whether a formal claim needs to be lodged at a tribunal, or whether it can be settled informally via mediation or conciliation etc. The Government aims to ensure that tribunals ‘are used as the option of last resort to resolve employment disputes’. Given the concerns raised by respondents in relation to fees, the Government has committed to consider the remissions system in a wider review required for the universal credit’s introduction. The review is intended to produce a single, simpler, remissions system for courts and tribunals which is more cost efficient and ensures that those who can afford to pay fees do so, while those cannot remain able to access to the courts and tribunal system.