Review of Employment Tribunal Fees – Update

The introduction of employment tribunal fees on 29 July 2013 has continued to be the subject of debate.  The statistics have shown, and as a firm we have noticed a large reduction in claims being instigated by disgruntled employees. 
Many have viewed the fees as a barrier to justice, whilst a welcomed step for employers.  In September the Law Society published its discussion document:

In June, the government started its review of the employment tribunal fees and the fee remission scheme.  The written evidence submitted to the inquiry has now been published. 
The President and Regional Employment Judges of the Employment Tribunals (England and Wales) have made a number of interesting points and believe that the fees have had a negative impact on people’s access to justice.  They have made a number of proposals to reform the system, which include:

·       a tiered system of fees using the Short Track, Standard Track and Open Track as is currently used by the tribunal for its caseload management.  They have not made a recommendation as to the level of fees but instead say that it is a decision for Ministers;
·       discounted fees for online submissions, using e-mail correspondence and making online payments.  They also suggest discounted fees for having “hearings” online or for dealing with matters without having a hearing in person;
·       incorporating further charging points to encourage parties to prepare for the hearing with as little intervention as possible from the tribunal;
·       a system as used in Scotland where Respondents are liable for response and hearing fees;
·       raising the remission threshold and/or discounting the termination payments “as income or capital”;
·       only having to apply for remission once, as opposed to the current system where remission is applied for at the point the claim is made and separately for the hearing;
·       fees to be automatically repayable in a successful claim and reimbursement on a sliding scale; and
·       allowing claimants to recover their fees in their claims against insolvent employers.
Whilst the current fee system does not appear to be working, to introduce a fee for Respondents to pay in order to file its defence seems to be a further penalty for the employer. 

The review is expected to be completed later this year and will be followed by a consultation on the recommendations that have been proposed.   In the meantime, it would be interesting to hear your views, so please comment below.

Erica Dennett