Paying the price: The tribunal system now costs more

An AEL report

Shona Simon, the president of the Employment Tribunals (Scotland), spoke to the United Employment Lawyers network about the introduction of employment tribunal fees.

She explained the work she has done to ensure that the Scottish system remains independent from England and Wales and fits with the requirements of employment law in Scotland.

The fees marks a radical change in the history of employment law. Never before have employees been charged to bring their claims in the Tribunal. This now puts Employment Tribunals in a different position to other Tribunals – such as those dealing with immigration and asylum issues, special educational needs for children, or social security benefits – which do not charge fees.

“ The theory behind the introduction of fees is simple – to oblige those who can afford to pay, to contribute towards the cost of running the Employment Tribunal system (a system that is currently funded by the tax payer,” she said.

There has been speculation over the extent to which the fees are intended to persuade potential claimants with weaker claims from bringing or pursuing claims. It is likely that some claimants may be put off bringing a claim for financial reasons.

The new fee structure is accompanied by a system of fee remissions, which enables claimants to avoid paying some or all of the fee normally payable if they meet the relevant criteria. As with any means tested benefit, the fee remission system has its critics. However, the entire fee remission system for all the Courts in the country is likely to be overhauled in the Autumn, so the issue of fee remission in the Employment Tribunal is likely to remain a live one for some time to come.

While employers will welcome the introduction of fees if the effect (if not the intention) of the new system may be to reduce the number of claims brought by disgruntled former employees, there is a danger that the new fee system may well end up merely increasing the size of settlement packages on many occasions. This way the cost of the new fees may end up ultimately being borne by employers after all. This is a time of great change in Employment Tribunals – as well as the introduction of fees, Tribunals now have much wider powers to deal with claims proactively.

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