Law at Work — February 2014: the impact of tribunal fees on businesses in the UK

It has been more than six months since the introduction of the new fee regime into the Employment Tribunal system, which took place on 29 July 2013. The primary purpose behind the regime, according to the government, was to reduce the volume of vexatious claims or those brought without merit. One of the key criticisms of the ‘no-fee system’ was that employers facing such a claim had to spend significant amounts of money defending their position and taking action to resolve the claim in their favour. There was no way to deal with such claims without incurring financial or time costs.

Where previously a claimant could bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal without any charge by the tribunal, the new regime has created a series of fees. An issue fee (of £160 or £250, depending on the type of claim being brought) is now payable when a claimant files a claim and there is an additional hearing fee (of £230 or £950) payable by the claimant before the case can reach a hearing. There are a small number of other fees payable in the event of certain applications being made.

The lawfulness of tribunal fees was the subject of a judicial review challenge from the trade union UNISON. This created a degree of uncertainty about the new system. UNISON’s application included four challenges to the lawfulness of the fees regime…

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