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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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News: New tribunal fees spark outrage across political spectrum

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A decision to make claimants pay up to £1,200 to take an employment tribunal claim all the way to a full hearing from next year has sparked outrage across the political spectrum.

While unions branded the decision a “disgrace”, employers’ groups attested that the move would have little impact on plans to make workers think twice about legal action because most would be exempt anyway.
 
The Ministry of Justice announced today that, following a public consultation, some of the new fees would be lower than initially proposed in order to “strike a fair balance between the needs of business and tribunal users”.
 
As of next summer, claimants will have to pay up to £1,200 to lodge a complex claim such as unfair dismissal, sex discrimination or equal and see their case go to a full hearing. The figure is £550 less than originally suggested in last year’s consultation.
 
The majority of the £1,200 fee – some £950 – will be paid by the claimant if the case is heard, but they can also choose to settle or withdraw before this point – an option that the government is hoping will become increasingly common as it bids to cut the £84 million that it costs to run the present system.
 
Simpler claims such as redundancy payments or wages that have not been paid following the termination of an employment contract, meanwhile, will lead to a smaller levy of £390.
 
But TUC general secretary Brendan Barber professed himself against the introduction of any fees whatsoever.
 
“It is vital that working people have fair access to justice, but introducing fees for tribunals will deter many – particularly those on low wages – from taking valid claims to court,” he said. “Many of the UK’s most vulnerable workers will simply be priced out of justice.”
 
Alexander Ehmann, head of regulatory policy at the Institute of Directors, on the other hand, supported the introduction of fees to “make people think twice before submitting vexatious or weak claims”.
 
But he expressed concern that “under current proposals, many unemployed claimants will have their fees waived despite having the means to pay”.
 
Ehmann added: “Even the government accepts this could mean that the majority of claimants are exempt from their new rules – a result that would undermine the entire purpose.”
 
 
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Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

Read more from Cath Everett
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