Ever since their creation, Employment Tribunals have been free. Their very ethos is access to justice, which is reflected in the overriding objective, which demands that all Tribunals are
“Dealing with a case justly includes, so far as practicable: — (a)ensuring that the parties are on an equal footing; (b)dealing with the case in ways which are proportionate to the complexity or importance of the issues; (c)ensuring that it is dealt with expeditiously and fairly; and (d)saving expense.”
The recent announcement that Employment Tribunals are due to start charging thus comes as a bit of surprise. The amount isn’t nominal either. Workers will now face between £150-£250 charge to make an application, and a further £1,000 for a hearing, assuming the claim is under £30,000. For a large and complicated case, this can perhaps be soaked up in legal and general litigation costs. However, what about an unpaid wages claim? When an employer withholds wages from an employee that they are due? The proposals mean that the employee will have to pay to receive their wages. Of course, this fee will be recoverable if the case is won, but that will be stark relief for the majority of employees. For some cases, the fee will be more than the case is worth. Is this really ensuring that a case is dealt with justly?