The government has said it intends to bring back employment tribunal fees, scrapped last year by the Supreme Court. Ministers have admitted to getting the balance between access and affordability wrong but it says that these discourage “vexatious” claims. In this blog, Chris Wilkinson from Expert HR Solutions Ltd. tries to explain the arguments both for and against.
With the introduction of fees there was a very significant reduce in the number of cases brought to tribunal. Opponents of the fees argue that relatively low value claims were obliterated because if an employer owes you, for instance, £500 employees felt that it was not worth paying £160 to pursue that claim. Supporters of the fees argue that if this was the issue then that is an argument for changing the system such that the tribunal automatically adds the Tribunal fee to any award in the event of the case being heard against the Respondent.
The argument that some people didn’t have the money to spend on Tribunal claims is surely an argument for making the system to help low earners avoid the fees much simpler say supporters.
Supporters of the fees argue that they deterred a large number of frivolous claims. The facts do not appear to support this argument as the number of cases that were unsuccessful dismissed or withdrawn remained broadly the same before during and after the fee structure was in force. Opponents say this simply isn’t true because lawyers see tiny number of cases where there is little if any chance of success, and that there is already a mechanism for weeding out on worthy claims which tribunal is able to impose deposit and cost orders on claimants. They continue that what the fees did do was allow employers who might previously have settled cases to take a harder attitude because they knew employees could not afford to take them to Tribunal.
It is the case that the large fall in caseload following the introduction of fees was followed by an equal and opposite large increase in cases following their withdrawal. This increase has resulted in an increase in waiting times so supporters argue that you need fair and proportionate fees in order to eradicate frivolous cases and reduce waiting times. One suggestion to achieve this is to introduce a sliding scale of fees similar to those charged by County Courts.
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