The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has launched plans to bring back “modest” employment tribunal fees of £55 per case, seven years after the Supreme Court ruled that a previous, more expensive, fee regime was unlawful.
The MoJ said modest fees “may incentivise parties to settle their disputes early through ACAS”, without the need for a tribunal hearing.
Better engagement by parties in ACAS early conciliation “would not only add value for taxpayer money that is spent on providing this free service, it could also help alleviate some of the pressures” employment tribunals were facing.
In a consultation published yesterday, the MoJ said the £55 issue fee would cover the “entire journey” of a claim – there would be no hearing fee.
Where a claim was brought by multiple claimants, the fee would remain at £55 and could be divided among them all.
With 5% of tribunal claims settled for £200 or less, the proposed fee was “set at a low level so as not to render making such low value or non-monetary claims futile”.
At the employment appeal tribunal (EAT), a fee of £55 would be payable “per judgment, decision, direction or order” appealed.
The MoJ said this “reflected the process in which the EAT handles appeals”, since “each decision being appealed is registered and processed individually as separate files” by HM Courts & Tribunals (HMCTS) staff.
The MoJ said that, based on 2022/23 volumes of tribunal work and taking into account fee remissions, introducing the proposal would “generate between £0.6m and £0.7m in 2024/25 and between £1.3m and £1.7m per annum from 2025/26 onwards”.
The existing Help with Fees scheme would be extended to cover ET claimants and appellants.
The MoJ said it had assumed that 12% of single claimant fee income and 4% of multiple-claimant fee income would be remitted under the scheme.
“Above all, it is vital that fees must not prevent claims from being brought by making it unaffordable for those with limited means.
“Therefore, in developing this proposal, particular attention was paid in ensuring the level of fees would be broadly affordable to the public and proportionate to the remedy being sought.”
The MoJ said it recognised that the tribunal fees introduced in 2013 by former Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling “did not strike the right balance between meeting the policy objective for claimants to meet some of the costs of the ET and EAT and protecting access to justice”.
The case fees, ranging from £390 to £1,200 depending on the type of case, led to a fall of 53% in tribunal claims in the year after they were introduced.
“Therefore, in developing the fee proposal subject to this public consultation, careful consideration has been given to the lessons learned following the Supreme Court judgment, especially in relation to affordability, proportionality and simplicity as the three key principles underpinning a fair and balanced approach to setting fees in the ET and the EAT.”
Introducing the consultation, justice minister Mike Freer said: “Fees have been utilised as a means of paying towards the running costs of courts and tribunals for many years.
“It remains the government’s position that the cost of running the service should not be solely absorbed by the public purse.”
Mr Freer said it was “appropriate” that “some of the costs of running the ET and EAT should be recouped from those who use the system, and who can afford to do so”.