Introducing tribunal fees
The government’s consultation on introducing fees, ‘Charging Fees in Employment Tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal’ will run until 6 March 2012. The consultation sets out two potential schemes:-
Option 1: The level of fees would depend on the nature of the claim and the stage reached in the proceedings (and for multiple claims would depend on the number of people involved). An issue fee of between £150 and £250 would be payable when the claim is lodged and a hearing fee of between £250 and £1250 would become due if the case proceeded to a hearing.
Option 2: One fee of between £200 and £1750 would be payable at the issue stage irrespective of whether the claim progressed to a hearing. The level of the fee would depend on the value of the claim as well as its nature and the number of people involved. The fee for claimants seeking to recover £30,000 or more would be £1750.
Under both options, six further fees would apply for certain applications once a claim has been accepted, such as a request for written reasons and a counterclaim. It has been suggested that Option 1 could be introduced in 2013 while it would take until 2014 for Option 2 to be implemented in full. Only one fee structure is proposed for the EAT, in line with Option 1 but with an issue fee of between £400 and £1250.
The HM Courts and Tribunals Service remission system would be available to those who could not afford to pay the fees (which provides for both full and part fee waivers). Also, tribunals would have the power to order that the unsuccessful party reimburse the other party so that ‘the cost is ultimately borne by the party who caused the system to be used’.
The proposed level of tribunal fees is relatively high compared with the fees paid in the courts for claims of a similar value. While the greatest impact will be on claimants, respondents will be affected too. Claimants’ settlement expectations are likely to increase in line with their additional tribunal costs, while there will also be a fee for making an appeal to the EAT.
The fact that the introduction of fees will deter some claims does not sit well with the fact that the employment tribunal system was created on the basis that it should provide open access to justice. However, the government’s proposals to allow claimants’ fees to be refunded if their claim is successful; to waive or reduce fees for those on lower incomes; and to use a sliding scale of fees depending on the type and complexity of the claim are all designed to counteract this potential unfairness.