The government has released proposals to bring back a controversial fee for employment tribunal claims, despite a previous scheme being struck down as unlawful in 2017.
The Ministry of Justice is consulting on a ‘modest’ fee for people who wish to use the tribunal that hears claims of unfair dismissal, discrimination and unfair deductions from pay. The consultation argues that the cost of running the tribunal should not be ‘absorbed by the public purse’ alone. The proposed £55 fee on claimants would generate between £1.3 million and £1.7 million per year from 2025.
The previous 2013 scheme placing fees on accessing the tribunal highly controversial and was held unlawful by the Supreme Court in 2017, as it inhibited access to justice. Fees of up to £1,200 led to a 53% decrease in the number of cases brought before the tribunal. The court said that the fees were discriminatory and unaffordable as it meant that low value claims were not worth pursuing. The government was obliged to repay the fees it had previously demanded.
An MoJ spokesperson quoted in Legal Futures said: “in developing the fee proposal subject to this public consultation, careful consideration has been given to the lessons learned following the Supreme Court judgment, especially in relation to affordability, proportionality and simplicity as the three key principles underpinning a fair and balanced approach to setting fees in the Employment Tribunal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal.”
The government is also hoping to incentivise parties to use conciliation and arbitration services through the ACAS resolution system. A MoJ spokesperson said that this ‘would not only add value for taxpayer money that is spent on providing this free service, it could also help alleviate some of the pressures’ on employment tribunals.