The Memo: Is it time for yet another change to Employment Tribunal fees?

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Is it time for yet another change to Employment Tribunal fees?

Erin Bradbury – 4 March 2024

Just last month, the Ministry of Justice proposed a £55 fee for each case brought to the Employment Tribunal to reduce the cost to taxpayers for the service.  Back in 2013, the introduction of fees saw the number of cases drop by 70% over a four-year period, which might come as no surprise given that those fees could range between £390 and £1,200. So, in 2017 the Supreme Court ruled such fees as unlawful, stating that the setup “effectively prevents access to justice.” The Law Society also weighed in on this decision, highlighting how employment cases often deal with unfair dismissal, unauthorised deductions from pay and general discrimination at work, so it is crucial that the justice system itself does not perpetuate such inequality.

So, why is it being brought up again? Well, the annual cost of running the Employment Tribunal has now risen to £80 million, as the number of cases nearly doubled from around 18,000 to 33,000 cases in 2022/23. In its recent consultation, the MOJ has acknowledged the Supreme Court ruling, yet claims that the proposed fees would still be reasonable. 48 organizations - such as the Trade Unions Congress and Citizens Advice - have come forward in response to the consultation, arguing that the new fees would allow bad employers to undermine better ones.

If the introduction of fees is on the cards, they could be implemented as soon as November of this year. However, it is important to note that this would come with a ‘Help with Fees’ remission scheme, which would allow eligible individuals to claim reimbursement. That said, the MOJ anticipates that these new fees will reduce the annual cost by £1.3-1.7 million. While that might be a significant decrease, no decisions will be set in stone until the consultation wraps up at the end of March. Nick Emmerson, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, has highlighted how careful deliberation will be in order, as “we will closely consider the Ministry of Justice’s new proposals to see if they are compatible with all workers being able to enforce their rights.”

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