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Bid to overturn employment tribunal fees fails

Bid to overturn employment tribunal fees fails

An attempt by Unison to overturn the fees charged to claimants who want to take their employer to an employment tribunal has been rejected by the High Court.

Unison the union argued that the fees are “punitive” and have “priced thousands of workers out of justice”.

A way to “weed out” vexatious litigants

The plan to introduce fees for employment tribunal claims was first outlined by Chancellor George Osborne at a Conservative Party conference in 2011, following lobbying from employers and business organisation. The fees, implemented by the Ministry of Justice in 2013, are intended to act as a way to “weed out” vexatious litigants and fruitless claims.

As such, claimants face fees ranging from £160 to £250 to bring a claim, with a charge of between £230 to £950 in order to proceed to a tribunal hearing, with the hope that claimants will consider the merits of their case, before commencing what can be costly legal action against their employers. The fees can be refundable should the claimant win their case and in some cases, where the applicant is on a low income, fee remission is available so that no fees are payable.

The scheme has attracted industry support, with the Institute of Directors previously saying that the system was a “sensible way” to protect companies from frivolous claims, with its own statistics showing that only one in ten claims made against its members were successful.

However, since the introduction of the charges, the number of claims lodged at the employment tribunal has plunged. Just 13,612 new claims were made nationwide in the three months to September – compared to around 48,000 new claims that were made each quarter before the introduction of fees.

High Court rejects challenge

Unison brought a challenge to the fee payment scheme arguing that the fees are punitive and are restricting access to justice by pricing workers out. However, the High Court has rejected the union’s application for judicial review. Unison has been granted the right to appeal the court’s recent decision the Court of Appeal and has stated:

“The High Court’s decision is disappointing but we will fight on and do everything possible to ensure that these punitive fees introduced by the government are abolished. Today’s ruling is a real missed opportunity to ensure that all workers can afford to bring an employment tribunal claim.”

Justice Minister Shailesh Vara expressed her continuing support for the fee introduction and the High Court’s decision:

“I am pleased that the court has dismissed this case on all grounds. Small businesses can be hamstrung by unfounded employment tribunal claims and taxpayers should not have to pick up the £74m bill for running the service”

Time taken to resolve employment claims has increased

Despite the reduction in the number of cases, nearly three quarters of employers have reported that the time taken to resolve employment claims has actually increased.

According to the CBI/Accenture Employment Trends Survey 2014, 73% of employers said they considered that the employment tribunal claims they face have increased in length. Neil Carberry, Director of Employment and Skills at CBI commented that CBI’s goals have always been a reform of the employment tribunal system to speed up the process for legitimate claims for companies and applicants. He said:

“Most companies say claims are slower now or as slow as they were before, and that’s the thing that really needs to change and should be a focus for the next government.”

At IBB Solicitors, we take a proactive approach to workplace problems, helping employers find the best possible outcome for their employment issues. We can help advise on policy reviews and provide expert training for your HR team. Our specialist employment lawyers place heavy emphasis on continuing personal training and development, to ensure that they always present you with the most up-to-date legal and practical advice available.

Find out how we can help you settle disputes and stay on the right side of the UK’s ever-changing employment law by calling us on 01895 207892, or email your details to employment@ibblaw.co.uk.