On 14 December 2011, Justice Minister, Jonathan Djanogly, announced the planned introduction of fees for employment tribunals to lower the £84 million cost to the taxpayer, and relieve pressure on businesses.
The consultation that was launched in December 2011 puts forward two sets of proposals that will ensure that those who use the system make a financial contribution but which will also protect access to justice for those on low incomes or limited means.
The consultation’s two options for consideration are:
- Option 1: an initial fee of between £150-£250 for a claimant to begin a claim, with an additional fee of between £250-£1250 if the claim goes to a hearing, with no limit to the maximum award; or
- Option 2: a single fee of between £200-£600 but this would limit the maximum award to £30,000 with the option of an additional fee of £1,750 for those who seek awards above this amount.
In both options the tribunal would be given the power to order the unsuccessful party to reimburse fees paid by the successful party.
Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly said:
'Currently, the UK taxpayer bears the entire 84m cost per year of resolving other people’s employment disputes at tribunals. This is not sustainable.
'We believe that people should pay a fair amount towards the cost of their case. Fee waivers will be available for people on low incomes to protect access to justice.
'Our proposed fees will encourage businesses and workers to settle problems earlier, through non-tribunal routes like conciliation or mediation and we want to give businesses particularly small businesses - the confidence to create new jobs without fear of being dragged into unnecessary actions'.
The fee proposals, as well as reducing the cost to the taxpayer, aim to encourage both sides to consider carefully the strength of their case and whether they could resolve the matter outside the tribunal - saving time and money and reducing the emotional cost that tribunal proceedings can bring.
There were 218,100 claims to Employment Tribunals in 2010-11, a 44 per cent increase on 2008-09. The cost to the taxpayer rose from 77.8m to 84m over the same period.
The Government will continue to fund the cost of ACAS, which helps people in employment disputes reach agreement without the need for legal proceedings, and is free to users.
The consultation will close on 6 March 2012, with a view to introduce the fees not before 2013-14.