Employment Tribunal Fees set to arrive

29 July 2013 could represent a landmark date in employment law with tribunal fees likely to be introduced for the first time since the introduction of Employment Tribunals (ET) in 1965.

The Employment Tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal Fees Order 2013 provides for fees to be paid when a claim is presented to an Employment Tribunal (“the issue fee”) and on a date specified in a notice accompanying the notification of the listing of a final hearing of the claim (“the hearing fee”).

With a minimum fee of £160, and ranging up to £950 for an individual taking a dismissal case to a hearing (for groups of workers, the fee scale goes up to £5,700), the proposed introduction of these fees has been a cause for concern and has led to a legal challenge. Unfortunately, whilst lawyers have failed in their attempt to block the introduction of the fees, permission has been secured from the Court of Session in Edinburgh for a full hearing later this year. This hearing will be to consider the legality of the UK Department of Justice’s move to introduce these fees and, in the event that the Government loses the case, it has already agreed to repay any fees paid in Scotland, England and Wales – an agreement that it will be required to publicise to the users of the tribunal system.

The possible balance being struck is that under the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, which is due to come into force in stages over the next year and will, amongst other things, insert a new provision so that where an employer is found to be in breach of employment rights with aggravating factors, tribunals can levy a financial penalty of 50% of the compensation awarded up to a maximum of £5,000 and with a minimum threshold of £100. Payment within 21 days would qualify employers for a 50% reduction of the penalty. This should act as a dis-incentive for employers wasting the ET’s time by trying to force cases to the Tribunal.

When the tribunal fees are introduced there will be provision for remission or part remission of any fee that is payable but, in circumstances where these provisions will not apply to everyone who uses the Employment Tribunals, it will be important to ensure that how, and to whom, the provisions apply is fully understood. Equally, the significant financial penalties that employers may face for being held to have breached the rights of their employees (with aggravating factors) mean that it is vital that employees’ rights are properly understood and respected.

The employment team at Stephens Scown LLP has a wealth of experience of advising and assisting clients within the ever-changing sphere of employment law and human resources. If you have questions about how the introduction of tribunal fees or financial penalties for employers will affect you or if you have any employment or HR issue that you need advice on, then you can contact one of the team without obligation using the details at the bottom of this page.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Jason Tucker .

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