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No more Employment Tribunal fees: what happens now?

Employment Tribunal fees are unlawful and the Government has to refund anything from £27m to £32m to people who have made claims. So what happens next?

Since 2013 when fees were introduced, people who felt unfairly sacked or discriminated against have had to pay up to £1,200 to make a legal claim against their employers.

Not surprisingly, the number of Employment Tribunal claims plummeted and estimates are the total reduction was between 70% and 79%, depending on your sources of data.

The biggest falls were sex discrimination and unfair dismissal claims, which is not surprising: if you’re suddenly out of work, you’re probably nervous about spending large sums of money on a legal claim – even if you felt very aggrieved.

We’ve experienced this a number of times. We assisted someone who was sacked by text on his way home for the weekend: he received a simple “we don’t need you anymore” message, after 10 years with his employer. Although he had a strong case to make an unfair dismissal claim, he decided he couldn’t risk spending the money when he was in a difficult financial situation.

Unison won a long legal fight and the Supreme Court ruled that fees were unlawful. The 7 judges ruled that the fees were “inconsistent with access to justice” and were out of step with the Equality Act because they affected women much more than men.

The Government has already decided to:

  • Voluntarily refund all fees if they were found to have been taken unlawfully
  • Cease taking fees with immediate effect.

So what happens next?

The surest prediction is, of course, an increase in Employment Tribunal claims, now that making claims will be free again.

The glory days for harsh bosses who felt they could easily fire someone or treat someone badly with little risk of any legal consequences are over.

Employers’ representatives including the Institute of Directors are already predicting an increase in “vexatious” claims from people who, although their claims are weak, hope that an employer will pay them something to go away and avoid the need to defend such a claim.

But it’s too early to accurately predict whether the Government will abandon fees completely or come up with a replacement structure, perhaps involving varying fees for different forms of claims.

We’ve been writing about Tribunal fees since they were introduced. We will continue to follow this issue closely and update you when there are any changes.

 

By Brian

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