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Employment tribunal fees

Published Monday, April 10, 2017

Employment tribunal fees were introduced in July 2013. This note summarises developments since.

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Employment tribunal fees were introduced during July 2013 by the Employment Tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal Fees Order 2013 (SI 2013/1893)Prior to that, since the creation of the employment tribunal system, claimants were not required to pay fees to bring their claims.   Claimants must now pay separate fees to issue their claim and have it heard.  Fee levels differ according to the nature of the claim.  It is possible for those with limited means to obtain a reduction or waiver of fees provided certain criteria are met.  

The introduction of fees coincided with a steep decline in the number of cases received by employment tribunals. In the year to June 2013, employment tribunals received on average just under 13,500 single cases (brought by one person) per quarter. Following the introduction of fees, the number of single cases has averaged around 4,400 per quarter from October 2013 onwards, a decrease of 67%. The average number of multiple cases (brought by two or more people) received per quarter was just under 1,500 in the year to June 2013 but has averaged around 400 since October 2013, a 73% decrease.

Since their introduction, tribunal fees have been the subject of repeated judicial review proceedings both in England and Wales, and in Scotland.  To date these challenges have been unsuccessful.  The trade union Unison brought the judicial review in England and Wales, which was heard by the Supreme Court in March 2017.  Judgment is awaited.

On 11 June 2015 the Conservative Government announced the start of a post-implementation review of tribunal fees. The review was published on 31 January 2017.

On 21 July 2015 the House of Commons Justice Select Committee announced an inquiry into courts and tribunal fees, including employment tribunal fees.  The Committee published its report on 20 June 2016, concluding that fees should be reduced, restructured and subject to a more generous remissions system.  The Committee was highly critical of the Government’s delay in publishing its post-implementation review.  On 9 November 2016, the Government responded to the Committee’s report.  The Government’s substantive response on the issue of employment tribunal fees formed a single paragraph of the response document.  The Committee’s Chair described the response as “offensively perfunctory”.  The aforementioned review, published on 31 January 2017, provided a point-by-point response to the Committee.

A thematic digest of the evidence submitted to the Committee inquiry as it relates to employment tribunal fees is provided on the landing page for this briefing (see supporting documents).  

This note summarises the background to and operation of the fees system, provides a statistical analysis of its impact, discusses the legal challenges to the Fees Order and cites relevant comment.

Commons Briefing papers SN07081

Authors: Douglas Pyper; Feargal McGuinness

Topics: Courts, Employment

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