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The charges have been brought in partly to offset the £74m annual cost of providing Employment Tribunals for people wishing to bring claims for everything from cases of unfair dismissal to issues over unpaid invoices. Originally created back in 1964 as Industrial Tribunals, until now, there had been no charge to bring a case through an employment tribunal.
To lodge a claim under the new fees schedule will cost between £160 and £250 depending on the type of claim being made, with people wishing to lodge a claim for unfair dismissal paying the higher fee. If the case goes ahead to a hearing then a further fee of either £250 or £950 (again depending on the type of case) will need to be paid.
People unable to afford to pay the fees will be able to apply for a remission of all or part of the fee. The move to introduce fees in Employment Tribunals has been welcomed by employers’ organisations such as the CBI as a way to “weed out weak claims”. However employment lawyers have strongly criticised the decision to charge, saying it will penalise many groups. These include pregnant women, the sick, disabled, elderly and whistleblowers, all of whom may find they cannot afford to challenge the termination of their employment, non-payment of wages or other instances of discrimination in the workplace.
The fees have also been criticised by Trade Union representatives. Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary, said; “Today is a great day for Britain’s worst bosses. These reforms are part of a wider campaign to get rid of workers' basic rights at work. Its only achievement will be to price vulnerable people out of justice.” Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite commented; “What we are seeing is injustice writ large as this worker-bashing Government takes a sledgehammer to workers’ rights – this is a throwback to Victorian times.”
At Canter Levin & Berg Solicitors, our employment law department deals with employment tribunal cases on behalf of employers and also employees. Employment Lawyer and Partner in the firm, Martin Malone added his objections to the introduction of charges for employment tribunals, saying:
“I disagree strongly with the decision to start charging fees for Employment Tribunal cases on two grounds. Firstly, imposing these fees on people, many of whom will have perfectly legitimate grounds for making a claim, serves to restrict access to justice. Equally for employers the new regime brings the prospect of routine costs orders and fines, so that it seems that the only intended financial winner is the Government.
Secondly, given that one of the Government’s stated aims in introducing the fees was to reduce the burden on taxpayers, the fee remissions system may mean that a large number of people will apply for a reduction in their fees, reducing any possible savings and preventing the new system from paying for itself.”