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Employment tribunal fees may be re-introduced

Lawyers and trade unions have said the move may make it hard for lower earners to seek justice

The government has proposed plans to introduce fees at employment tribunals in a move it said will claimants and employers to reach a settlement.

The proposed issue fee for bringing a claim is £55, which would remain the same if a claim was brought by more than one person. Any appeals will cost an extra £55. No hearing fees are planned.

The government said this may encourage settlement, saving taxpayers money and alleviating pressure on the tribunals service.

It read: “Modest fees may incentivise parties to settle their disputes early through [Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service] Acas without the need for claims to be brought to an [employment tribunal] ET. 

“Better engagement by parties in Acas early conciliation would not only add value for taxpayer money that is spent on providing this free service, it could also help alleviate some of the pressures the employment tribunal is currently facing.”

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The government previously introduced fees in 2013, charging £390 for simple disputes such as unpaid holiday pay and £1,600 for more complex issues such as discrimination claims.

Following a Supreme Court decision in 2017, the fees were found to be unlawful as they interfered with the right of access to justice. 

MP Mike Freer said the Ministry of Justice has learned from the 2017 decision.

He said: “The Ministry of Justice has carefully considered the 2017 Supreme Court ruling on the previous approach to fees in employment tribunals and has endeavoured to ensure that the fees proposed in this consultation are proportionate and affordable, in line with the judgement.”

However, TUC general secretary Paul Nowak said the fees will make it harder for workers to seek justice against their employers.

He said: “Working people shouldn’t be picking up the bill for exploitative employers’ poor behaviour. Employment tribunal fees are just an invitation for bad bosses to ride roughshod over workers.” 

Deborah Margolis, senior associate at employment law firm GQ Littler, said although the new plans are more reasonable, they could still deter claimants during the cost of living crisis.

She told HR magazine: “This proposal has really come out of the blue. The proposed £55 fee seems a lot more reasonable than the previous system of tribunal fees. However, £55 may be considered a substantial sum for lower-income claimants who are contending with the cost of living crisis.

“If the proposals are implemented it may filter out some low-value, low-merits or vexatious claims, though it may equally deter genuine claims.”

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