Government launches employment tribunal fee refund scheme in wake of Supreme Court judgment

Out-Law News | 23 Oct 2017 | 1:39 pm | 1 min. read

The UK government has launched the first stage of a phased implementation of a scheme to refund employment tribunal fees to people who have made claims.  

The refund scheme follows a Supreme Court judgment in July which held that the 2013 introduction of fees of up to £1,600 to bring an employment claim breached domestic and EU law. The government immediately stopped charging fees and is now beginning the process of refunding fees to those who have previously paid them.

Employment law expert Jon Fisher of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said the July decision had already led to an increase in employment tribunal claims.

“The Supreme Court did suggest that a lower level of fee would be legitimate. However, there are currently no proposals for fees to be reintroduced. We anticipate that as a result the number of claims will increase significantly, and there is anecdotal evidence from tribunals that this is already happening,” Fisher said.

The refund scheme will initially see the government contacting around 1,000 people individually to offer them the chance to complete early applications for the refund scheme. The Ministry of Justice is also working with trade unions that supported claims involving multiple claimants.

As well as being refunded their original fee, successful applicants to the scheme will also be paid interest of 0.5%, calculated from the date of the original payment up until the refund date.

After an opening phase of four weeks the government said it would announce further details of the scheme. Those who have paid employment tribunal fees but are not contacted in the initial phase can register to apply when the full scheme is rolled out.

Fisher said he anticipated that employers would also be able to apply for refunds, for example for fees paid for issuing a counterclaim, attending judicial mediation or in connection with an appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

“Employers who have lost claims issued since fees began may have been ordered to reimburse the claimants for their fees, in which case they will be able to reclaim those sums as well. However, they will not be able to reclaim the fee element of any settlement payments unless the wording of the settlement agreement allows them to do so,” said Fisher.

Fisher said employers should also make sure they are aware of any claims which were struck out due to a failure to pay a fee, as the government was proposing to reinstate these.

“Employers who are aware of such claims should take steps to ensure that they preserve any information that they may need in order to defend them,” Fisher said.

Employment tribunal fees were introduced in late July 2013 and started at £160 for simple claims, rising to £1,600 for employment appeal tribunal claims.