Fees in employment tribunals
Employment tribunal fees Those of us who advise and provide representation in employment matters have been expecting, with some trepidation, the introduction of fees for bringing claims in employment tribunals. This marks a radical change in the whole ethos of the employment tribunal. Ever since its creation as the National Industrial Relations Court, the employment tribunal has not charged fees for its services, and has not generally been concerned with costs. The government’s stated aim is to transfer the cost of running employment tribunals from taxpayers to those who use the tribunal. The new fees will drastically change the role of the employment law adviser, not least because the cost of bringing proceedings will have to be discussed with clients at a very early stage. These radical changes are supposedly to be brought in on July 29, 2013. At the time of writing (June 16) the statutory instrument which brings in the fees has not yet been brought into force. The instrument itself is, not surprisingly, complex and obscure. In order to be able to explain the new rules to clients, the instrument must be mastered in detail. This is not for the faint-hearted. In summary, the proposed fees are as follows: • Unfair dismissal, discrimination and whistleblowing: £250 for issuing the ET1 claim form and £950 for a hearing. • Unlawful deductions from wages and claims for statutory redundancy payments: £160 for issue and £230 for a hearing.
Some claimants can obtain remission of the new fees. The remission scheme is, again, obscure and complex. Examples are as follows: • Claimants in receipt of some (but not all) welfare benefits • Claimants with a gross annual income below an applicable threshold, for example £13,000 for an individual with no children • Claimants with a disposable monthly income of £50 or less. Potential problems with the new system (apart from understanding the new rules) include: • The introduction of new IT systems and centralised collection mechanisms for fee collections and remission applications, with potential and foreseeable glitches. • The effect of IT problems on time limits for making claims. • Implications for legal expenses insurance: whether such policies will cover the new fees. This is a skeleton outline of the new rules, which must be studied in detail before clients can be properly advised. Another step has been taken to remove access to justice in employment cases from the non-lawyer.