Employment Tribunal fees may be reintroduced as claim levels remain high

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has confirmed that it’s considering the re-introduction of fees for Employment Tribunal claims.

Tribunal fees were introduced in July 2013 and started from £160, but in certain cases Claimants had to pay up to £1,200 to the Tribunal before they could take their claim to a final hearing.

In July 2017, the Supreme Court held that the Tribunal fee system was unlawful. This Court action was brought by Unison, who argued that the fees prevented employees, especially those on lower incomes, from accessing justice after being treated unfairly at work. The Supreme Court backed up Unison’s claim, ruling that the fees did deny access to justice and were also indirectly discriminatory.

The MOJ is now looking at introducing a new fee system which would be a more “proportionate and progressive” way of providing funding for the Tribunals. It has yet to set out any details of what such a system would involve. 

Since the Supreme Court’s decision:

  • case numbers have risen: the figures released in June 2018 showed the number of claims increased by 165% compared to the same quarter in 2017;

  • it’s taking longer for cases to be heard: the increased volume of claims means there is now a large backlog of cases but not enough Employment Tribunal Judges to hear them; and

  • litigants are starting to receive refunds: since April 2018 the MOJ has made refunds of up to £15.8 million to the Claimants who paid these fees (or to the employers who reimbursed them under settlement agreements or court orders).

Whilst the MOJ is looking into reintroducing Tribunal fees, it’s unlikely that there will be imminent changes. For the time being, employers should therefore be aware that claims are still at a 5-year high and are unlikely to start decreasing in the near future.