On 29 July 2013 a system for fees will be brought in for claims in the Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal. There has previously been no charging system in place for bringing claims in the Tribunals which upheld the principle of access to justice for all.
In the Employment Tribunal the new system will mean that the amount of fees for a claim will be dependant on the type of claim being brought. Type A claims will include relatively straightforward claims such as statutory redundancy payments, unlawful deductions of wages and breach of contract claims. The fee for issuing these types of claims will cost £160 and a further £230 for a hearing.
Type B claims such as unfair dismissal, discrimination or whistle blowing claims will have a £250 issue fee and a further £950 for the hearing. There will be a fee structure for issuing multiple claims and fees will also apply in some applications throughout the process . In the Employment Appeal Tribunal there will be a cost of £400 to issue an appeal and a further £1200 for a hearing.
There will be a system of fee remission for people of limited means but this will only apply to a very small percentage of claims. The introduction of this system could also impact on the already over stretched Tribunal system which will likely need significant funding to cope with the processing of the new fees.
The impact of this new system is difficult to predict but it is believed that it may potentially deter people from bringing claims with little merit but we shall have to wait and see if that is actually the case and there is a reduction in claims.
The Government hopes that it will encourage both parties to achieve earlier settlements but it may have the opposite effect because if employers know an employee has limited means they may wait until a claim has been issued before considering settlement to see if the employee is willing to fund further costs in bringing an action. This maybe a step closer to bringing the same basis of costs which is currently operated in the civil court system but is it a step too far in terms of restricting access to justice for lower paid workers?
This legislation is therefore not without its controversy as Unison has lodged an application in the High Court for Judicial Review challenging the law on the basis that it is breaching EC law and is contrary to the principle of access to justice. Unison contends that in some cases the fees maybe more than the compensation than Claimants are seeking which will mean that lower paid workers are likely to be prevented from bringing small claims and also it could indirectly discriminate against women bringing claims such as equal pay.
“These charges are a blatant attempt to stop working people from exercising their employment rights,” said Dave Prentis, Unison general secretary. “It will give unscrupulous employers the green light to ride roughshod over employees’ already very basic, rights at work.”
The new legislation may cause resentment in the workforce as employees will think twice about claiming for small sums which they are legally entitled to, we await the result of the Judicial Review application with interest.