One of the reasons the government introduced Employment Tribunal fees in July 2013 was that it would reduce the number of “mailicious and weak” cases brought to a Tribunal. In other words people would think twice about taking their case to a Tribunal if they had to pay for the privilege (between £390 and £1,200 depending on the nature of the claim).
The number of cases certainly dropped after the introduction of fees. According to information published by http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ in the year leading up to their introduction in July 2013, employment tribunals received on average just under 13,500 single cases (brought by one person) and 1,500 multiple cases (brought by two or more people) per quarter. Both of these quarterly rates dropped by around 70% after October 2013.
Some might argue that “malicious and weak” cases are more likely to be taken to Tribunal when brought by one person. The fact that the dramatic reduction applied to single and multiple Tribunal cases might suggest that the dominant reason for the drop was that potential applicants could not afford the fees.
In any event that particular debate was overtaken by events on 27 July of this year when the Supreme Court ruled that the introduction of fees for Employment Tribunals and Employment Appeal Tribunals had been illegal because they were “… an unlawful interference with the common law right of access to justice.” As a result, as well as having to refund the fees paid over the last four years (estimated to be £32m) the government could also find itself having to consider claims from people who would have taken their case to a Tribunal if they had not had to pay a fee.
The impact of this ruling in terms of numbers does depend on which end of the telescope you look through. On the one hand possibly as many as a hundred thousand people were denied justice because they couldn’t afford to pay a fee of up to £1,200 – a significant sum for many to find. On the other, the government collected £8m per year – a miniscule amount in terms of its annual expenditure on the NHS in England alone (£120 billion plus). Surely there are easier, legal and less painful ways the government can collect money from us.
If you are taking a case to Employment Tribunal or Employment Appeals Tribunal remember that regardless of any information you are given to the contrary there are no fees payable after 26 July 2017 (you may see references to fees on forms and/or documents which may not have been updated).
You may get a refund if you paid fees at an Employment Tribunal or Employment Appeals Tribunal between 29 July 2013 and 26 July 2017. On 15 November 2017 the Government announced the roll out of the Employment Tribunal Refund scheme via which those who paid fees can be reimbursed. You can get more information on how to apply by going to https://www.gov.uk/employment-tribunals/refund-tribunal-fees
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