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Employment tribunal fees

Published Monday, November 28, 2016

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 72% 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 is due to be heard in the Supreme Court later this year.

On 11 June 2015 the Conservative Government announced the start of a post-implementation review of tribunal fees. The Government has recently stated it will publish the conclusions of the review "in due course".

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.

A thematic digest of the evidence submitted to the 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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