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Employment tribunal fees set for summer 2013

Claimants and unions strongly opposed, businesses in favour

16 July 2012

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Fees of £1200 for bringing an unfair dismissal claim will be introduced next summer, the government has announced.

Responding to a consultation on introducing fees for employment tribunals launched in December, BIS officials acknowledged that claimants and unions were strongly opposed while businesses were generally in favour.

Under the plans, claims for unpaid wages, holiday pay and redundancy would be labelled ‘level one’ and pay an issue fee of £160 and a hearing fee of £230. ‘Level two’ claims, including unfair dismissal and of discrimination would pay an issue fee of £250 and £950, totalling £1200.

An alternative proposal, providing for a single fee at issue, with a higher fee for claims of over £30,000, was rejected by ministers.

BIS officials said in the response that tribunals would have the power to order the unsuccessful party to reimburse the fee to the successful party. There would be an issue fee of £400 and hearing fee of £1200 for appeals to the EAT.

BIS said the existing fee remission scheme for civil court users would be applied to employment claims.

Martin Warren, head of the HR practice group at Eversheds, said: “The two stage fee structure chosen by the government is attractive because it incentivises settlement and provides a fairer basis for cost contribution, reflecting a ‘pay for what you use’ approach, as against the single issue fee.

“However, real concerns remain over the operation of the remission system and this is clearly reflected in the responses received by the government to the consultation.

“While it is good news that it will consult over plans to remedy the shortcomings of the remission system, it is hoped that it does not take years to achieve the necessary changes.”

However, Theodore Huckle QC, the Welsh government’s counsel general, said the decision to introduce fees “totally undermines” the principle of free access to justice.

“Any view that only unmeritorious claims will be discouraged by the introduction of fees would seem to me to be somewhat naïve,” he said.

“The process of approaching a legal court or tribunal is off-putting for most citizens; the thought of doing so without direct legal advisory support and representation is daunting in the extreme.

“To be required to do so and pay substantial fees as well in advance will undoubtedly deter many applicants with good claims who will thereby be denied access to justice.”

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Tribunals & Courts