Government to ‘consider’ lowering employment tribunal fees

Topics: Employment

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The government will consider lowering employment tribunal fees as part of a review of the regime, a junior minister indicated today. 

Jenny Willott MP, minister for employment relations and consumer affairs, said a number of aspects of the system will be under review. ‘One of those issues I am sure will be the level of fees,’ she told a Westminster Forum event. 

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Tribunal fees were introduced in July. Fees start at around £160, and increase to between £230 and £950 for further hearings. 

Willot (pictured) said the regime will be subject to ‘a lot of parliamentary scrutiny’ but added it was too soon to judge the impact of the system.

However, it is unclear what form a review of the process would take.

Hugh Collins, professor of English Law at the University of Oxford, said the fees were four times higher than they ought to be when compared with county court fees.

He said lowering them to as little as £50 could be enough to deter vexatious claims and ensure meritorious ones are still brought. ‘My objection to fees is that they are just so high,’ he told delegates. ‘If we had it at a £50 fee, that would be enough to be rid of a lot of the ridiculous claims,’ he said.

According to government statistics the number of claims fell 79% to 9,801 in the final quarter of last year compared with the same period in 2012, and dropped 75% on the third quarter of 2013.

In February the High Court dismissed a challenge by trade union Unison to the introduction of employment tribunal fees. Unison has until 14 April to apply directly to the Court of Appeal for an appeal. 

Readers' comments (17)

  • How gracious of them. May I be bold enough to suggest they get rid of them altogether. If a 79% reduction in claims is not a subtle hint for them to do so I don't know what is. Access to Justice is far more important than some short sighted knee jerk penny pinching measure especially now that the economy is booming again (allegedly)

    Back track please and fast - people are being denied justice on a daily basis..

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  • I'm with Professor Collins and Anon above. The introduction of such enormous fees was a serious error. How can Minister Willot claim that it is 'too soon to judge the impact of the system' when we have direct evidence of such sharp falls in the number of claims?

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  • Anon at 5.48pm and Ed. I couldn't disagree more. Having to deal with a fanciful claim (or the threat of one) inevitably results in a "lose/lose" for the employer, whatever the outcome. This has devastating consequences, particularly for those running small businesses. The introduction of fees has gone a small way towards redressing the disgraceful bias towards employees that is endemic in our employment process. Whether the fees are currently too high or not is another issue, however to suggest that they should be removed altogether is, frankly, ridiculous.

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  • I didn't say get rid totally. There should be a merits test at a much earlier stage so that the Employment Judge can weed out unmeritorious claims.

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  • Well let's see what the next month brings with the introduction of early conciliation next week that may further stem any so called 'fanciful' claims. Best the Govt lowers fees however so as not to deny justice to those unlawfully dismissed and to prevent some Employment Judges from being made redundant. Let's hope if that were to happen the MOJ uses the right criteria and matrix to avoid flawed redundancies and any £250 Tribunal claims...

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  • Far from lowering fees, they should introduce a "loser pays" principle for employment matters as for most other litigation. This might help to cut off the huge mass of bogus, troublemaking claims with which small employers and the taxpayer are burdened. Better still, abolish the regime altogether and return to the simple action in contract.

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  • Could it be said that the introduction of fees are provisions that would not have the same effect an person who becomes unemployed, and then claims unfair dismissal against their former employer because it is likely that they would be entitled to a remission of fees, whereas if a person felt that they had been forced to find new employment because they had been subject to victimisation or discrimination the fee regime would have a greater impact.

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  • Actually, we do know what form the review will take, as it's been previously referred to in public by the MoJ. It's called a 'post implementation review', it's standard civil service practice, and it will be entirely internal, with no consultation or external input. And it's not scheduled to take place until after July 2014, i.e. after one full year of the fees regime. So, I think you are reading far too much into Willott's comment - she appears to have simply been deflecting a Q by saying, in effect, 'it will all be considered by our review', which is what ministers tend to say in such situations.

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  • Ed, there is now an early consideration of the merits, a rule 26 initial consideration by a judge in the 2013 ET Rules, carried out when ET1 and ET3 have been presented.

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  • Not only loser pays: applicant insures the risk. No ifs, no buts. If you can't get insurance you can't bring the claim. Premium recoverable if you win.

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