Since 2017, there has been no charge for people bringing an employment tribunal claim to court – but that may be about to change.

Seven years ago UNISON won an appeal in the UK Supreme Court which abolished fees for bringing cases to Employment Tribunal (ET) and Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) on the grounds that their introduction in 2013 had interfered with the right of access to justice.

For those four years, ET Type A claims – which covered simple disputes such as unpaid holiday pay – attracted an issue fee of £160 and a hearing fee of £230, totalling £390; while ET Type B claims – covering more complex disputes such as discrimination – attracted an issue fee of £250 and a hearing fee of £950, totalling £1,200. The EAT attracted a £400 issue fee and a £1,200 hearing fee, totalling £1,600.

The data showed that following the introduction of fees, not only was there a general drop in claims, there was an even bigger drop in discrimination claims. The union argued that the fees were discriminatory because they had a bigger impact on women and other marginalised groups. 

Now, with a lengthy backlog of claims waiting to be heard, the government has launched a consultation to seek views on whether to reinstate a £55 charge.

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“The government acknowledges that the right balance was not achieved previously, and the fees were actually a barrier to people being able to seek justice. That’s why the amount proposed this time around is now much lower,” says Kate Palmer, employment services director at Peninsula.

“Whilst we will have to wait to see what responses are received to this consultation, it is likely that unions will still raise concerns despite the reduced fee this time around.

“If fees are introduced, it is likely to be looked upon favourably by employers who may feel that charging a fee will reduce the number of spurious claims being brought, thereby leaving them with more time for running their business.

“However, it remains to be seen whether the proposed fee is at such a level that it will deter claims, because this was at the heart of the union claim that was brought last time.

“There will be some exemptions to the fees, meaning not everyone will have to pay and as the proposed amount is so much lower, we will have to wait to see whether it will have the same  dramatic reduction in tribunal claims that we saw last time fees were introduced.”

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