The Ministry of Justice has issued a consultation paper on possible charging regimes for making claims in the Employment Tribunals and Employment Appeal Tribunal. Currently claimants pay nothing to bring a claim in these forums, an anomaly in the civil justice system. The cost of running the tribunal service is £84 million and the government is looking at ways to reduce the burden on the public purse by making users pay, as well as encouraging parties to seek alternative means of dispute resolution and/or think twice about pursuing unmeritorious claims.
The government already has the necessary statutory powers to impose fees in tribunals and is consulting only on the proposed fee-charging structure, not the principle of whether or not fees ought to be levied. Two options are presented for employment tribunal claims:
Fees to be set according to the nature/complexity of the claim and the tribunal resources it will therefore use. Fees will be charged on issue of the claim and on hearing, if the claim proceeds that far, with further fees payable for certain specific applications made after a claim has been accepted. Indicative fees for claims by a single claimant in the employment tribunal are banded in three levels, between £150-£250 for the issue fee and £250-£1,250 hearing fee. Where more than one claim is brought by a single claimant, the fee payable would be set by reference to the highest “band”. These fees would both be payable by the claimant in the first instance, but with a power to order the losing party to pay. Claimants with no or limited income may be entitled to remission of all or part of the fees.
Fees would be set according to the nature of the claim and also the value of the claim. The government believes that asking claimants to state at the outset whether the value of their claim exceeds a threshold amount (suggested to be £30,000) will give employers greater certainty over the maximum liability they may face and also help manage claimant expectations of compensation they may receive. However, although the consultation paper notes that claimants will need “a greater amount of advice and support” to be able to realistically assess whether the value of their claim exceeds £30,000 it is not clear how this will be delivered. There would be a single main point of charging, at issue of a claim, with no fee for the hearing, but as with Option 1 certain applications during proceedings would attract fees. Indicative fees for issue of a single claim in the employment tribunal are £200-£1,750 - legislation would prevent claimants paying the lower level of fees obtaining compensation above the threshold for that fee level. As under Option 1, fees would initially be payable by the claimant but with the power to order the respondent to reimburse the claimant if the claim succeeds.
Applications to the Employment Appeal Tribunal are proposed to be charged at a single level, along the line of Option 1, with a fee for issue of the appeal and a hearing fee. Indicative fee levels are £400 and £1200.
It is noted in the consultation paper that fees at these levels would not cover the entire cost of running the employment tribunal service but there are hints that over time the government would move to recoup a greater proportion of the costs from the users of the service.
The consultation closes on 6th March 2012.