The fact July 2017’s decision of the Supreme Court concerning the employment tribunal fees system made it on to the main evening news on all channels, shows just how significant the decision was.
The court’s decision effectively said that the fees system was denying lower earners access to justice because the fees, which are up to £1,200 to bring an unfair dismissal or discrimination claim, were deterring too many people from bringing claims at all. That has been borne out by a 70% reduction in the number of employment tribunal claims being issued annually since the fee system was introduced in July 2013.
The system was introduced at a time when the number of claims being dealt with by the tribunal had reached record highs, and there was a feeling that employees were often issuing claims just to try and bring about a settlement and to get some ‘easy money’. The fee system has certainly stopped many such claims, but it appears to have gone further in making the tribunal system unaffordable for those who cannot pay the fees, but who may well have arguable claims against their employers.
The government is now having to go back to the drawing board. While it is unlikely that the fees system will be removed altogether, what we do expect is a new system; the level of fees will almost certainly be lowered for certain types of claim. We could also see fees based on the earnings of the employee or on the expected value of the claim, or a combination of both.
For now, the government has removed the fee system altogether. Those that have paid fees since July 2013 will be able to reclaim them. Exactly how we do not yet know.
Greg Burgess is partner at DMH Stallard