The Supreme Court has detailed that imposing Employment Tribunal fees was unfair after all. It is reported an estimated £27m will be paid back to those who paid the fees Chris Grayling introduced. That will come as little comfort to those who were put off pursuing a claim because of the fees being in place and whose claims are now out of time.
The trade union Unison went to the most senior court in the country to argue that imposing tribunal fees prevented or put off people from using the employment tribunals. Typically, people who need to use the tribunal can find themselves in a financially distressed position possibly having lost their job and income. The prospect of having to pay fees potentially amounting to £1,600 is daunting and will have put many off or priced many out of pursuing a claim.
The Ministry of Justice has said it will put immediate steps to cease charging fees and put in place arrangements to give refunds. What those arrangements are and how quickly they come into place remains to be seen.
Paul Hatton comments “There was a large reduction in the number of tribunal claims being brought after the fees were introduced in 2013. Many people who might otherwise have brought a claim were put off by them. Court fees in the tribunals and civil courts system have been imposed and increased considerably in the past four years. Whilst there is a case to argue that the courts should bring in more revenue to help cover their costs, it ought not to result in people deciding not to bring claims because they cannot afford the fees. People who qualify can obtain an exemption from paying fees at all but it isn’t well known that exemptions exist or how to go about obtaining one.
It will be interesting to say whether the number of tribunal claims brought increases back to the old levels once the fees are scrapped.”