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Government launches consultation to reintroduce employment tribunal fees

The government is proposing to reintroduce fees for employment tribunal claims, nearly seven years after the Supreme Court quashed the previous charging regime as unlawful.

It has launched a consultation with justice minister Mike Freer MP saying that new charges would ‘ensure users are paying towards the running costs of the tribunals and put [their] users on broadly the same footing as users of other courts and tribunals who already pay fees’. But trade unions reacted angrily, accusing the government of seeking to allow ‘bad bosses’ to ‘ride roughshod over staff’ by making it harder for workers to seek redress for discrimination, unfair dismissal and withheld wages.

The Ministry of Justice claims to have learned lessons from the 2017 judgment. It admits the former charges ‘did not strike the right balance’ between claimants paying toward tribunal costs and protecting access to justice.

The fees proposed in the consultation are a £55 issue fee which would be payable on bringing a claim to the tribunal, which would remain at £55 where a claim is brought by multiple claimants. Each judgment, direction, decision or order appealed to the EAT would attract a £55 fee. No hearing fees are planned.

Based on 2022/23 volumes, the proposed fees are expected to generate £1.3m-£1.7m a year towards the £80m annual cost of the employment tribunals.

The MoJ denies the new fees are intended to dampen demand. However, trade unions stressed that employment tribunal claims fell by two thirds after charges were introduced in 2013.

People on low incomes will be able to apply for fee remission under a scheme called “help with fees”. Eligibility depends on the amount they have in savings, any benefits they receive and their income.

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