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Employment tribunal fees - will they stay or will they go

Bridget Holmstrom - Sunday, January 18, 2015

Employment Tribunals and the Hotel Industry

Prior to 2013 any employee wishing to bring a claim for unfair dismissal could do so without fear of incurring any loss.  The consequence of this is that the employers generally found it cheaper to pay the £1000 or so to the employee rather than instructing lawyers.  The consequence has been a 70% reduction in the number of employment tribunal claims since the introduction that fees must be paid prior to bringing a claim for unfair dismissal.

The fees amount to £1,250, a sizeable amount for any individual but particular low paid workers.  The fees are paid in two stages and initial issue fee of £250 and a hearing fee of £950.  If these fees are not paid then the claim will be rejected.

In addition to the fees that must be paid there is also a time limit after which the employee loses the right to make a claim,  miss this deadline and the claimant loses all rights to making a claim.  The time limit, increase in fees and the pace at which claims are now administered means that the employee does not have much time to find £950.

There is another stage that the employee is required to go through and this is the application for conciliation with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS).  Employers are asked if they wish to negotiate a settlement.  Some employers suspecting that the employee will be unable to pay the necessary fees are likely to choose not to go for early conciliation and then see whether the employee does make the fee payment.  The employer can then agree to conciliation.

Normally, if the employer does not hear from ACAS within 3 months  from the date of dismissal then, most probably, the employee has decided not to make a claim.  If negotiations through ACAS fail then employers should expect to hear within one month from the date of termination of negotiations and if not, again, it is unlikely that the employee is pursuing the claim.  However employers should remember that the claimant can apply for remission from the fees if they are unable to afford the size of the required fees.  This process can take along time and the employer will not be informed that the employee has made a claim nor that they have applied for fee remission.

Given that the low income employees have, effectively, been discriminated against by the introduction and leve of the necessary fees the judicial review applied for by Unison may be successful.  Any success may be followed by a reduction or scrapping of the fees.  Employers are advised that they should make sure that all employment policies are properly followed and documented.