The government has launched a consultation on the introduction of fees in Employment Tribunals. It seeks views on the proposed charging structure, rather than on the principle of fees.

There are two options for consideration:

  • 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
  • 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.

The consultation will close in March 2012, with a view to introducing the fees around 2013-14.

Victoria Phillips, head of Employment Rights at Thompsons Solicitors said:

“Just when we learned that unemployment is at its highest level since 1994 - knowledge that unscrupulous employers will use to treat the rights of the most vulnerable employees with contempt - the proposal to charge upfront fees in Employment Tribunals is a further kick in the teeth.

“It is inevitable that fees at any level will make it more difficult to pursue a claim against an employer. But the options being proposed will make it impossible for most.

“Fees do not distinguish between genuine and unmeritorious claims, they just prevent the claims of people unable to pay, many of whom will have lost their jobs or are owed money by their employers.

“At the very least any fee system must apply in the same way as in other jurisdictions but that is not even an option in the consultation.

“If you bring a civil claim in the county court for more than £3,000 the fee is £325. It is unjustifiable for a sacked worker to face fees of up to £600 and additional amounts of up to £1,750 to pursue an ET claim.”

To access the consultation document, go to the Ministry of Justice website.