13 November, 2018
On 7th November 2018, the Law Society Gazette published an article suggesting that the Ministry of Justice ("the Ministry") has confirmed it may reintroduce fees for employment tribunal claims.
Tribunal fees were introduced in July 2013; initially around £160, and increasing to £230 - £950 for further hearings. In certain circumstances claimants had to pay up to £1,200.
However, the landmark case of in R (on the application of UNISON) v Lord Chancellor in 2017 declared tribunal fees to be unlawful and they were scrapped.
The Ministry now hopes to find a balance that helps fund the court system while being 'proportionate and progressive', and believes that a fee system can be found that will ensure access to justice. It believes that the judgment in UNISON didn't completely rule out fees altogether, and that a level of fees that does not prevent access to justice would be permissible.
Richard Heaton, permanent secretary at the Ministry confirmed, 'What we are not trying to do is squeeze as much income as we can out of every litigant.'
As a result of the judgment, the Ministry is currently facilitating the refund of fees previously incurred under the tribunal system. In 2017/2018 refund payments totaled £7.1m. Since the end of the financial year in April 2018 the Ministry has made refunds totaling £15.8m. This is a significant figure, which has no doubt had a considerable impact on budgets. The drive to find a proportionate fee system is perhaps, therefore, no great surprise. Heaton said he was confident the new scale is 'proportionate, progressive and within our powers'.