I recently represented a claimant case in Nottingham employment tribunal. The claimant waiting room was eerily quiet being empty when we walked in. This was compared to sixteen months earlier when I had represented another claim there and the room had been packed out. My latest case lasted three days and during that time we hardly saw any other claimants and representatives in the waiting room. The case ran over and the judge had to assign another day so the remaining witnesses could be cross examined, representations could be made and the verdict decided upon. He reluctantly did this saying the government had cut back his sitting days dramatically. This seems to be the shape of things to come.
On Monday 29 July under the The Employment Tribunals(Constitution and Rules of Procedure) Regulations 2013 the government introduces tribunal fees for claimants wishing to lodge a claim and then to request a hearing. The last day, therefore, for bringing a fee-free employment tribunal claim will be by 4pm on Friday 26 July. Any claims already in the system will not attract fees.
Following the introduction of the fee system the fees will be repaid to the claimant if they win.
Type A claims (including unlawful deductions, notice pay, equal pay and redundancy pay) will cost £160 to lodge the claim, with a £230 hearing fee; and
Type B claims (including unfair dismissal and discrimination) will cost £250 to lodge the claim and a £950 hearing fee.
Appeals will cost up to £1,600. Witnesses’ expenses will no longer be paid.
Fees will be either paid online via credit or debit card or by cheque or postal order.
There will also be a fee remission system, which will attempt to ensure that access to justice is not reduced through the introduction of tribunal fees. This will apply to individuals in receipt of certain benefits or who have a disposable monthly income below a certain level. The income of a claimant’s partner will be taken into account though when determining whether a fee remission is given.
The potential cost of losing an employment tribunal will rise to £20,000 which will further discourage claims. Tribunals are increasingly awarding costs to the losing party which will further discourage claims being brought.
Employment tribunals were introduced in the early 1970s by a Tory government as a way of preventing strikes over unfair dismissals and workplace injustices. Tribunals can award compensation, but cannot force an employer to take back a worker judged unfairly dismissed. With the changes to the employment tribunal system it seems that rogue bosses will once again have the upper hand and claimants will have to think twice about the implications of lodging a claim.
The unions are already pitting their wits against the government claiming it is unlawful to deny citizens the right to take a free claim in pursuance of their employment rights. The fee structure law will be implemented on 29 July, but if the unions win in court the fees will be refunded.