The government has recently announced its employment tribunal fees refund scheme.
The government lost an important case in July which made it unlawful for the Employment Tribunal to charge fees. The estimated cost of the tribunal fees refund, including interest, is £33 million. The Employment Tribunal started charging fees in 2013 and claims dropped by 79%. Informal reports from Employment Judges indicate that they have since seen a 2 to 7 – fold increase in cases.
With regard to all existing cases, the President’s Case Management Order of 9 August 2017 stayed all claims and applications before the Employment Tribunal. The Case Management Order can be found here.
The Government has been silent regarding redress for individuals who potentially would have brought a claim but were deterred from doing so due to the affordability of fees. The Government could be open to challenge by individuals claiming that the imposition of fees deterred them from making a claim. However, the usual tribunal time limits would need to be rolled back to permit late applications.
All of which means that although there could be a number of still-in-time cases, individual claimants will need to persuade the tribunal that the reason they did not pursue a claim was solely due to the imposition of fees.
There could in theory be a tranche of eligible claims that were unable to settle or under-settled, did not qualify for fee remission or have suitable funding but the passing of time will almost certainly cloud the issues originally in dispute. Changes of personnel at respondent employers and the fact that aggrieved employees have moved on and found alternative employment will impact on whether claims are likely to be pursued.
An unintended consequence of these changes is likely to be that Tribunal hearings are lengthened due to a lack of judges. The reduction in cases since the introduction of fees in 2013 has meant that Judge numbers have dropped and so it’s highly likely that it could take up to a year for new claims to get a full hearing.
If you are an employer or an employee and need to discuss a potential claim or how to defend one, then please contact Justin Sadler. Justin@barrettandco.co.uk 0118 958 9711 or why not consider our fixed fee 1 hour consultation for £95 including VAT?