The employment tribunal system is currently free to those who use it at a cost to the taxpayer of approximately £84m per annum. Following the conclusion of a Government consultation proposing the introduction of a fee structure to employment tribunals, draft regulations were placed before Parliament on 25 April 2013.
The Employment Tribunals and Employment Appeal Tribunal Fees Order 2013 is set for implementation in July 2013. From July this year, financial responsibility for tribunal claims will be placed on claimants. Under the fee structure, prospective claimants will have to pay an issue fee of £250 and a hearing fee of £950 for “type A” claims (most claims including unfair dismissal and discrimination). There are lower fees for “type B” claims (simpler claims such as notice pay, redundancy pay and unlawful deductions from wages) where the issue fee is £160 and the hearing fee is £230. The issue fee will be payable when the claim is lodged and the hearing fee payable at a time specified by the tribunal when they issue the notice of hearing date.
If the fee levels are not paid the claim will not be allowed to commence or continue at the tribunal. The Order makes mention of strike out in relation to multiple claims which is an indication that strike out will be the penalty for non-payment. This is to be confirmed.
The fees are not insignificant, particularly for an individual who has just become unemployed. Are they expected to pay the full amount? Well, the Government is currently consulting on a proposed remission system. This consultation will end on 16 May 2013.
At Schedule 3 of the Order, the proposed remission system is detailed (this is presumably subject to amendment following the consultation). Employees who are in receipt of “qualifying benefits” will receive full remission. The “qualifying benefits” are: Income-related Employment and Support Allowance; Income Support; Income-based Jobseekers’ Allowance; Working tax credit (so long as no child tax credit is being received by the claimant); and Guarantee Credit. If a claimant is not in receipt of any of these benefits, remission will be dependent on their gross annual income or monthly disposable income (linked to the number of children they have). Income of a spouse/partner will be included within the calculation although a spouse in receipt of a qualifying benefit will not be sufficient to allow the claimant automatic remission. An application must be made for remission before the applicable fee is payable (supporting documentation will be required, similar to the current requirements for a Legal Aid application).
It remains to be seen how the new system will work in practice but one can speculate that it will reduce the number of claims entering the tribunal system.Jack Boyle Solicitor – Employment Law