Employment Tribunal fees to be introduced in 2013
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Following consultation, the government confirmed on Friday the introduction of a fee of up to £1,200 for taking claims to an employment tribunal.
The fees, which will be introduced in summer 2013, are slightly lower than initially proposed but nonetheless represent a significant departure from the existing system, in which bringing a claim to the employment tribunal is free of charge.
Under the new system, claimants will pay an initial fee to issue a claim and a further fee if the claim proceeds to a hearing. The new system contains two levels of claims which are dictated by the complexity of the claim. Those claims included in the first level (including unlawful deduction from wages, holiday pay, and redundancy payment claims) will require an issue fee of £160 and a hearing fee of £230. Level two claims such as claims for discrimination, equal pay and unfair dismissal (which are more complex and are likely to take a longer period of time to determine) require an issue fee of £250 and a hearing fee of £950.
In addition, there is a separate fee structure for multiple claims (those submitted jointly by more than one claimant) in employment tribunals.
Claims submitted to the EAT will attract an issue fee of £400 and a hearing fee of £1,200.
There has been widespread criticism of the introduction of this system on the basis that low income workers or those that have lost their jobs are unlikely to be able to afford the fees and will therefore be denied access to justice. However, the Government has confirmed that those on low incomes may not be required to pay the full fees (although no details are yet available as to the threshold for any waiver of fees or assistance in this regard). This will become clearer after a further consultation later this year as part of a wider review.
An alternative view is that a fee based system will encourage more responsible behaviour by tribunal users. Many employers would agree that, due to a number of reasons not least the current economic climate, employers have faced an increased number of speculative claims in recent years. Whilst many of these claims are withdrawn, struck out or settled before hearing, employers are often faced with hefty legal bills associated with defending such claims. Many employers believe that the introduction of fees will reduce the number of speculative claims brought.
Are you an employer? Do you support the introduction of a system of fees in the employment tribunal?
If you are an employee, do you believe that the introduction of fees will hinder access to justice?
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