After a successful ‘first phase’, the scheme to refund unlawful Employment Tribunal fees are now open to everyone.
We made no secret of the fact that here at Truth Legal, we were delighted of the Supreme Court’s decision back in the summer that the Employment Tribunal fees were unlawful . The fees, introduced in 2013, may have been aimed at tackling bogus claims, but the reality was that many people were denied access to justice at the very time when they needed it most. For many, the fees were an additional and unjustifiable expense at a time when they were already worrying about finances and facing an uncertain future. They simply could not afford to seek justice. An equally scandalous result of the fees is the knowledge that many unscrupulous employers will have gone unchallenged for their behaviour.
The Employment Tribunal fees refund scheme
We had to wait a few weeks after the judgement to find out how the Government would follow up its pledge to refund the fees that had been paid. Eventually, back in October, we received the announcement that a scheme was in place, and that it would run for an initial phase on an ‘invite only’ basis. The initial phase included 1,000 people, many of whom had written to the Ministry of Justice directly to ask about the refunds. The initial phase also mainly focused on people claiming in respect of single claims.
The scheme is now open to everyone who brought a claim between 29th July 2013 and 26th July 2017. You can claim online or by post/email . The process applies equally to those who paid their own fee, paid a fee on behalf of someone else (for example a Trade Union or solicitor and, equally, to those people (employers) who were ordered to pay the fees of someone who brought a claim against them.
What about the future?
Although the Supreme Court ruled that the Tribunal fees were unlawful, it’s concerning to note that the Ministry of Justice appears to be clinging to the possibility of re-introducing tribunal fees at some point in the future – albeit at a different rate. In the statement that accompanied that announcement of the initial phase of the refund scheme, the Government said:
“The Supreme Court judgment noted that ‘fees paid by litigants can, in principle, reasonably be considered to be a justifiable way of making resources available for the justice system and so securing access to justice’. The court ruled, however, that we hadn’t set the fee at the right level to deliver that outcome.”
Although there are other matters to take up the Government’s time, we need to be alert to the fact that tribunal fees do not seem to be dead in the water, as we had hoped. The problem is that for every vexatious or ‘unmeritorious’ claim that the Government tried to prevent with mechanisms such as fees, there will be many more genuine claims. Claims by people who have been treated badly by their employers and who are left vulnerable, often without any source of income, and simply cannot afford any level of tribunal fee.
Of course, many other types of legal action involve a fee – and we don’t deny that this can put people off bringing those claims too. For a long time, though, there was no fee involved in Employment Tribunal proceedings – reflective of the often relatively small levels of compensation people receive if they are successful. Another problem with Employment Tribunal fees is that by preventing employees (or ex-employees) from holding unscrupulous employers to account, it doesn’t just affect that one employee, but every one of that organisation’s employees. Worth thinking about.
Bring Employment Tribunal Claims before Fees are re-introduced
For now, though, there are no Employment Tribunal fees. If you are considering bringing a claim, whatever the basis – dismissal, redundancy, discrimination or something else – there will be many things to worry about, but how to afford the Tribunal fee won’t be one of them. As far as your other concerns, why not talk to us at Truth Legal? We are specialist employment law solicitors with a wealth of experience acting for employees who have been treated badly by their employers.
We can have a look at your claim and assess the strengths and weaknesses of your case. We can also talk you through the Tribunal process and talk you through the level of compensation you could recover either through negotiation, or if you are successful in a Tribunal. We can often act on a ‘no win no fee’ basis too, which can make the legal fees less of a worry too. Or, if you have Legal Expenses Insurance on your buildings or contents insurance, we can often act for you at no cost.
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