Employment tribunal fees were introduced in July 2013 and meant that an employee who wanted to bring a claim against their employer needed to make a payment in order to do so. The amount of the fee is based on the type of claim that an employee is trying to make. Type A claims are simpler cases such as unlawful withholding of wages, redundancy pay, holiday pay etc. where it is fairly easy to ascertain the facts. The fee to submit a Type A claim is £160 and then a second fee of £230 is due if the case goes to hearing.
Type B claims are for the bigger, scarier stuff! Discrimination, unfair dismissal, whistle-blowing etc. These cases are complex, often with lots of evidence to be considered and the employment tribunal fees are therefore higher (£250 to submit the claim and £950 if the case goes to hearing). You can find out more about Employment Tribunal Fees and the overall process at the ACAS website.
Depending on your stance you will either agree or disagree with these employment tribunal fees. Employers are generally in favour of the fees where as Trade Unions and employee representative groups are definitely not!
So what has happened since the fees were introduced?
What’s been happening with Employment Tribunal fees?
Well since the introduction the trade union UNISON have challenged the government by seeking a judicial review which claimed the fees were ‘unlawful’ as the system now does not give justice to the workers. The argument from UNISON has been that the introduction of fees has resulted in employees not being able to access justice as the vast majority will not be able to bring an Employment Tribunal claim due to the costs involved and the statistics may support this argument.
The claims raised through the Employment Tribunal service have dropped by 70 per cent which may imply that the fees are preventing people from pursuing genuine claims. Equally, it may imply that they have stopped the spurious claims that they were designed to stop and that they have therefore achieved part of their objective. It could also be that people are now getting justice through other means and that perhaps early conciliation is working and that people are using Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) services rather than going through a costly tribunal. It’s difficult to ascertain the true picture.
So far UNISON have been unsuccessful and the review completed by the Ministry of Justice concluded the fees structure will not change however there is additional support for those on low income with the introduction of ‘Help with Fees’ scheme. It is obvious the government wants the disputes to be resolved through ACAS conciliation and consider ADR methods to ensure the tribunals have the capacity to hear the ‘serious’ claims. Other changes include;
- Small number of claims being exempt from fees;
- Further review of the submission process, including simplifying it;
- Increase from £1085 to £1250 for the threshold and additional support for those with children.
UNISON’s latest challenge to the Supreme Court was heard on 27 & 28 March 2017 and a decision is expected within six months. Assuming there aren’t any surprises, it is safe to say the fees are here to stay! Unions will probably not be happy about it, but from an employer perspective this is great news.
Whilst we do not recommend you treat your employees any less equitably than you would have done anyway, it does mean that employers can remain reassured that they are some obstacles in place to prevent the spurious and vexatious claims of the past.
Regardless of fees or not, employers should treat employees fairly. This not only makes sense from a financial perspective (you won’t have to pay out) but also that the employees will be more engaged meaning they will be working harder for you! Why wouldn’t anyone do that? Whilst most companies do not have the same budget as the likes of Google to spend on HR activities and employee engagement remember our motto – HR really doesn’t have to be that complicated!
If you would like to discuss how to avoid pitfalls, support in managing any potentially difficult situations or help with increasing employee engagement, why not give us a call to see how we can support you on 020 3319 1649.