It has been alleged that Whitehall officials and the Law Commission have been in talks to evaluate how tribunal fees can be reintroduced, if at all, and how this will affect claimants and organisations.
Tribunal fees were abolished as a result of a ruling by the Supreme Court after a four-year legal battle in which a trade union argued that the regulations introducing the charges in July 2013 were unlawful, indirectly discriminated against women, and caused a barrier to justice. The fees of up to £1,200 were introduced in order to cut the number of weak claims being brought forward and, as a result, 70 per cent fewer cases were tried over the three-year period – with potentially strong cases gone unheard. However, tribunal claims significantly increased after the abolishment of tribunal fees.
When tribunal fees were first abolished, it benefitted claimants more than it did organisations. This is because:
- claimants were usually low paid or out of work individuals who could not afford to pay the court fees
- claimants with claims of little to no value were often deterred from pursuing claims
- although claims regarding unfair deduction of wages attracted lower fees, unfair dismissal and discrimination claims could attract fees as high as £1,200. This meant that individuals became more motivated to bring larger value claims forward
- women and people from diverse ethnic backgrounds were less likely to bring claims or sex and race discrimination due to the higher fees
What would reinstatement mean for organisations?
If tribunal fees were to be reinstated, the number of claims being brought forward would likely decrease, particularly lower value and discrimination claims, now more so due to the financial impact of coronavirus. On the other hand, as it is still uncertain how the Government plan to proceed, organisations must be careful not to allow this news to act as a determining factor for how the next couple of months will go, in relation to the likelihood of an employee bringing a claim forward.
Further, even if tribunal fees were to be reintroduced, organisations may find that they do not mirror the old law but instead gives provisions to allow claims to be brought forward at a much lower cost than what it used to be. Essentially, organisations should prepare for any possible outcome, including no outcome at all.