The Ministry of Justice has today launched a consultation on reintroducing fees in employment tribunals and EAT appeals.
Between 2013 and 2017, a claimant who wished to bring an Employment Tribunal claim had to pay a fee. The logic was that users in most other court systems have to pay fees, so why should it be any different here? The obvious response, of course, was that if someone has been (for example) unfairly dismissed, has no income, and needs redress, is it right to expect that person to pay in order to access justice?
After extensive litigation which went all the way to the Supreme Court, the Employment Tribunal fees were abolished. There is no doubt at all that the existence of fees significantly affects the number of claims in the system - case volumes fell by 53% in the year after the introduction of fees and increased at similar rates in the years following the abolition of fees.
The Government have now launched a new consultation process, as the first step of re-introducing Tribunal fees. It seems that the consultation is limited to the "level and structure" of the fees but not the principle of introducing them - their mind would appear to be set on that. It is however worth noting that the proposed fees are significantly more modest than their 2023 counterparts, with a current suggestion of a one-off fee of £55 required to present an employment tribunal or submit an appeal to the EAT, but nonetheless one suspects that - as before - this story has a few more pages to turn....
The Ministry of Justice says the proposals are underpinned by three key principles – affordability, proportionality and simplicity, and therefore taking fully into consideration the Supreme Court’s 2017 ruling in R (on the application of UNISON) v Lord Chancellor 2017 ICR 1037 (Brief 1075), they will ensure that fees proposed will be proportionate and affordable to align with said judgement. There will also be support in place for those who cannot afford to pay the proposed fees via a ‘Help with Fees’ scheme, available to individuals on low income to support them towards the cost of paying the fee. Those eligible will receive full or partial fee remission.
Should you wish to participate in the consultation process then anyone "with an interest in or views on the subject" is able to do so here before the consultation closes on 25 March 2024.
The consultation suggests that should the fees be implemented, they may become payable from November 2024.
The Leathes Prior Solicitors Employment Team will be submitting our views, so if any of our clients want us to reflect their thoughts, please do get in touch. We will of course keep you up to date with any changes as they happen. If you’d like to contact the Employment Team please get in touch by phone on 01603 610911 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.