Employment tribunal fees start next week as High Court dismisses UNISON challenge

Out-Law News | 26 Jul 2013 | 3:33 pm | 1 min. read

Fees will be introduced for those wishing to bring a claim to the Employment Tribunal from Monday, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has confirmed, after the High Court dismissed a legal challenge by trade union UNISON.

The union has applied for a stay on the introduction of the new fees, pending a decision on whether it could go on to receive an oral hearing on its claim. The High Court refused its claim for a judicial review of the new fees without a hearing earlier this week.

An MoJ spokesperson was unable to comment on ongoing litigation, but said that it was "not fair on the taxpayer to foot the entire £74 million bill for people to escalate workplace disputes to a tribunal".

"It is in everyone's interests to avoid drawn out disputes which emotionally damage workers and financially damage businesses. That's why we are encouraging quicker, simpler and cheaper alternatives like mediation," the spokesperson said.

New fees for bringing a claim to an employment tribunal or the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) are due to come into force from 29 July. Under the new structure, parties will have to pay an upfront fee to raise a claim with a further 'hearing fee' once the case is referred to a tribunal. Flat fees will apply to EAT cases.

The amount payable to refer 'level 2' unfair dismissal or discrimination claims will be £250 with a further hearing fee of £950, making a total of £1,200. A full hearing for an administratively simple 'level 1' claim will be £390. The remission system which currently operates to exempt people on low incomes from having to pay the full fees will be extended to apply to employment tribunals.

New Tribunal Regulations will come into force alongside the introduction of fees. Among the changes are case management powers for employment judges; an initial 'paper sift' of claims, to prevent cases where the tribunal has no jurisdiction from proceeding to a hearing; and a greater emphasis on mediation as a dispute resolution tool.

In its original judicial review claim, UNISON said that the introduction of fees would breach EU law by making it excessively difficult or virtually impossible for workers to exercise their rights. In addition, it said that the Government's impact assessment on the new scheme was flawed as it did not properly consider the potential adverse effect of introducing fees on public sector workers with protected characteristics, as required by the Public Sector Equality Duty.

"This early decision is disappointing but UNISON is committed to continuing our challenge for a judicial review," said Dave Prentis, the union's general secretary.

"The Government's plans to ration access to justice by introducing fees into Employment Tribunals and Employment Appeal Tribunals are unjust and discriminatory. We believe that the Government should not put a price on justice and stop working people from exercising their employment rights," he said.