Justice minister moots ways of cutting taxpayer burden in employment claims

Justice minister Jonathan Djanogly has launched a consultation aimed at lowering the £84m cost to the taxpayer of running employment tribunals.

Justice minister Jonathan Djanogly
Justice minister Jonathan Djanogly

Under the proposals, claimants will be charged for using the courts, with two options currently being debated in Parliament.

Under the first option, claimants will pay an initial fee of between £150 – £250 to begin a claim, with an additional charge of between £250 – £1250 should the claim go to hearing.

Claimants choosing this option would then be eligible for an uncapped payout.

Under the second option, claimants would pay a single fee of between £200-£600, limiting the maximum award to £30,000.

In both options the tribunal would be given the power to order the unsuccessful party to reimburse fees paid by the successful party.

Fee waivers will be available for people on low incomes to protect access to justice.

As well as easing the burden on the taxpayer, the proposals are aimed at helping businesses by discouraging unnecessary claims, as claimants are forced to weigh up the strength of their case.

Commenting on the proposals, Djanogly said the proposed fees would encourage businesses and workers to settle problems earlier, through non-tribunal routes such as conciliation or mediation.

“We want to give businesses – particularly small businesses – the confidence to create new jobs without fear of being dragged into unnecessary actions,” he added.

The consultation will close in March 2012, with a view to introducing the fees in 2013-14 at the earliest.

Last month, Vince Cable outlined plans to overhaul employment tribunals that would result in all claims initially going to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) before reaching the employment tribunal and a ’rapid resolution scheme’ for simpler cases to be settled within three months (23 November 2011).