Tribunal Fees Should Be Scrapped, Says Supreme Court
What does this mean?
Prior to July 2013, claimants were not required to pay fees to bring Employment Tribunal claims. The introduction of fees required claimants to pay separate fees to issue their claims and have them heard, the level of which was determined by the nature of the claim. The introduction of fees coincided with a steep decline in the number of cases received.
On 26 July 2017 the Supreme Court declared that Tribunal Fees are an “unlawful interference” with the common law right of access to justice.
The Magna Carta, which has been enshrined in English law since 1297, was quoted by the Supreme Court as saying “we will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right.”, thus establishing a guarantee of access to prompt and fair justice. The court is also quoted as saying “people must in principle have unimpeded access” to the courts system.
This means that going forwards, Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal claims no longer attract fees.
Terminology: Claims, Cases and Complaints
Employment tribunal claims are classified as single or multiple claims:
Single claims are brought by a sole employee or worker.
Multiple claims are brought by two or more people (usually against a common employer) where claims arise out of the same circumstances.
Such multiple claims are grouped into one multiple case and are processed together. (By definition, the number of single cases equals the number of single claims.) This means the number of cases can offer a better guide to tribunals’ workload than the number of claims.
Claims may be brought under one or more different jurisdictions, for example Unfair Dismissal or Age Discrimination, meaning there may be multiple jurisdictional complaints per claim. So the number of complaints exceeds the number of claims, which exceeds the number of cases.
What does this mean for Businesses?
*Fees are being scrapped with immediate effect, but in the long run, it is likely that fees will be reinstated at a lower level, or linked to the value of the claim.
*The Government has committed to reimbursing approximately £32 million in fees to employees who had to pay them between 2013 and 2017.
*It is possible that individuals with claims which are no longer in time will attempt to lodge claims on the basis that the fees were a hindrance to them pursuing their claim within the requisite time limit, but that would be a difficult argument to sustain.
*Many employers will greet this news with some trepidation as it is likely to lead to more claims, particularly in industry sectors that have a low- to middle-income workforce and are not unionised (as unions tend to back claims and pay tribunal fees on behalf of their members).