Employment Tribunals: Fees to be Introduced
Bringing a claim to an employment tribunal is currently free and costs £84 million to run every year, a cost footed by the public purse. In 2011 the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) proposed charging fees for employment tribunals in an attempt to sift the burden of payment away from the taxpayer and towards those who actually use the service.
The consultation has now closed and the results of the MoJ decision are that fees will now be charged for going to an employment tribunal. Not only is this intended to reduce the taxpayer subsidy but also to encourage businesses and workers to go to mediation early and resolve workplace disputes in a more timely and cost-effective fashion.
The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) will continue to provide free dispute resolution services with paid-for employment tribunals to be used only as a last resort.
Starting in mid 2013, claimants will be charged a fee starting from £160 for a straightforward case. The fees will then rise in line with the complexity of the claim to a maximum of £950 for more complex cases. Weaker claims are expected to be better vetted so that they are resolved through mediation, thereby eliminating the need to go to a "costly" tribunal.
Whilst the fundamentals of the fair procedure process have not changed the underlying legal framework has been adjusted to allow a fairer, more robust service.
Mr Justice Underhill, who published the findings of his review of the employment tribunal rules, made a number of additional recommendations to streamline the process, including:
- An early "paper sift" to ensure that the weaker cases do not proceed to tribunal stage
- A simplification of the process, combining separate case management discussions and reviews into one preliminary hearing
- "Presidential Guidance", an overview to show all parties what is expected of them and what they can expect of the tribunal process
- A change to the process so that cases do not automatically close once a claim is dropped but now end when the employer officially announces so
Jonathan Djanogly, the Justice Minister, said of the new proposals:
“It’s not fair on the taxpayer to foot the entire £84m bill for people to escalate workplace disputes to a tribunal.”
“We want people, where they can, to pay a fair contribution for the system they are using, which will encourage them to look for alternatives.”
“It is in everyone’s interest 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.”
Claims at the Employment Tribunal service have fallen in 2010/2011 and again in the 2011/2012 with demand for Acas’ Pre Claim Conciliation (PCC) on the increase.