Put your money where your ET1 is – tribunal fees have arrived

It’s finally happened – as of Monday 29th July, it will cost you a few quid to put in a claim to an employment tribunal (the issue fee), and a few more quid to have your claim heard (the hearing fee). So how much will it cost – in more ways than one?

There are two levels of fees, and if you don’t cough up then your claim will be filed under ‘B’ for Bin – the sanction for non-payment is the case will not be allowed to continue (but more on avoiding payment later). Straightforward claims such as unlawful deduction from wages, notice pay and redundancy pay will set you back £160 for the issue fee  and £230 for the hearing fee (type A), whereas the fees for most other claims (e.g. unfair dismissal, discrimination, whistleblowing  and equal pay ) will be a tad more pricey, at £250 and £950 respectively (type B). These are based on individual claims – there are economies of scale for group claims (kind of buy 2, get up to 8 free) and there are additional fees for EATs. Check the guidance on the Employment Tribunals website for full details.

It’s clear that the main reasons for introducing the fees is to reduce the cost burden of the tribunal system, and to reduce the number of weak or vexatious claims – indeed, those two aims are intrinsically interlinked, given the volume of the latter.  My two pet professional hates, in no particular order, are unscrupulous employers who treat employees badly, and rogue employees who play the tribunal game for their own aims, whether motivated by vengeance, finances or just sheer mindedness. Anyone with the required eligibility (if needed) can claim anything they like within the basis of the law, but don’t have to do a fat lot to back it up as the onus is on the respondent to disprove the claim.  Sadly the more malicious claims there are, the more the system is under strain and the harder it is for genuine claims to get the attention and service (or indeed the credibility) they deserve.

It’s clear then that having fees could help reduce this. But as with all things, there will be some casualties. So now we have the anticipated grumbles that some genuine claimants will lose out as they won’t be able to afford the fees – notably part-time and low-paid workers, most of whom are women, minorities etc. In fact, Unison has legally challenged the fees– this hasn’t prevented the fees going ahead, but if successful then any paid out will be reimbursed. (That said, I wouldn’t hold your breath since Unison’s request for a judicial review has already taken a tumble at the first hurdle.)

But do they really have much of a case? The issue fee has to be paid at the same time as lodging the claim, but if you’re in a church mouse situation with barely two buttons to rub together  you can submit a Fee Remission application instead, as it is essentially a means-tested system. So if you can prove you receive certain benefits (such as Income Support, Universal Credit or Jobseeker’s Allowance) or have a gross annual income of under £13000 for a child-free singleton (more if you are in a couple or have kids), you could be exempt. Again, check online for full details.

So while in principle it may not feel right to put a price on justice, in practice I personally feel it is the right thing to do. I’ve dealt with various claims in my time, both for the claimant and the respondent, and seen many that have clearly been lodged in a fit of pique – revenge for being kicked to the kerb, or for a perceived detriment, and the claimant is determined to be a thorn in their employer’s side regardless of  financial gain. Even if the claims aren’t successful (as vexatious claims rarely are), there is still a significant cost to the respondent, as well as to the tribunal system as a whole. In fact many claimants lodge a weak claim purely in the hope that their employer will settle, i.e. throw them a few quid to shut up and go away just to avoid the time, effort and disruption that a hearing will inevitably lead to. And the only reason a disgruntled claimant could do this is because it didn’t cost them any money, only time and energy (and if they’d just lost their job, then they had plenty of both to spare).

Not that respondents are always the victim by any means – I’ve also come across plenty of dodgy employers who quite frankly deserve a good butt-kicking in a tribunal. But in order for that justice to be done, the claims that are an unnecessary (and unethical) drain on already-stretched resources need to be whittled down, and I would expect fees to be as good a way as any to do that. True, there will undoubtedly be some valid claimants that are also put off by the fees, but that’s what a fee remission form is for!

So while I’m sure that this reform will continue to cause a ruckus, IMHO it’s about time – it will be interesting to see how the ET statistics are affected and what they show over the next few years!

Tara Daynes

Written by , HR Consultant and Trainer

Tara is a fully qualified HR and training professional with over 18 years’ post-graduate experience. She is a Fellow Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, a qualified Specialist Employment Law Paralegal , and a registered Investors In People Specialist. Having worked in a variety of industries , she now focuses mainly in the non-profit sector. Particular areas of expertise are concern start-up HR functions for SMEs, including writing all required staffing policies and procedures and staff handbooks, and designing and delivering training for line management and staff on key issues, business and personal effectiveness skills.

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One Response to “Put your money where your ET1 is – tribunal fees have arrived”

  1. Matt Buckland (@ElSatanico)

    I am unable to see this in any other form than undermining the very system that the fees are purporting to protect. Though it may be true that the government is seeking to avoid unnecessary burden to the tax payer and focus on other methods of mediation, the initial cost will result in an overall reduction of claims not just those that are deemed spurious.

    The argument for the supporting of fees to access a tribunal process rests on the premise that the number of vexatious or malicious claimants is on the rise and a financial barrier to entry will alleviate an overburdened system. However, the statistical evidence simply does not support this, and this can only mean that charging for access will hurt those very people that the tribunal system exists to protect, particularly those on low/middle incomes, a majority of women, those from non-English speaking backgrounds and those with disabilities.

    Couple these changes with the recent attempts to remove legal aid from most employment cases and we are building a system that effectively locks out the very people it claims to protect. In fact the tribunal will now be burdened with an extra workload of having to decide whether fees are appropriate in individual cases and deal with the burden of claim and counter claim as well as the ongoing administration of the proposed Fee Remission system.

    Like most measures of this type those that are unable to afford individual personal legal representation and who do not qualify for the Fee Remission portion of the will be effectively squeezed out of access to justice. Who amongst us has £1200 to gamble in the casino of a tribunal so readily when also faced with having recently lost income? I suspect that the inflated media coverage of fallacious claims coupled with an incumbent government who are favourable to businesses over their employees has led to these actions. Let’s not for get that in a recent survey the public were found to think that £24 of every £100 of benefits is fraudulently claimed. Official estimates are that just 70 pence in every £100 is fraudulent – so the public conception is out by a factor of 34. For every hectoring scream of the Daily Mail let’s not forget that there is a human cost. Access to justice, like food, water and heathcare in England is a basic and beautiful right of citizenship.


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