BUSINESSES and employees will have to pay fees of hundreds of pounds to go to employment tribunals from next summer.
The government believes fees will encourage businesses and workers to mediate or settle a dispute rather than go to a full hearing.
Bringing a claim or an appeal to the employment tribunal is currently free of charge with the cost met by the taxpayer. The government believes it is not fair for taxpayers to have to stump up the entire £84million bill.
The system of fees has been tweaked to make some of the fees slightly lower than initially prosed after the Ministry of Justice’s consultation with businesses and the public.
Justice minister Jonathan Djanogly said: “We want people, where they can, to pay a fair contribution for the system they are using, which will encourage them to look for alternatives.
“It is in everyone’s interest to avoid drawn out disputes which emotionally damage workers and financially damage businesses. That’s why we are encouraging quicker, simpler and cheaper alternatives like mediation.”
From summer 2013, mediation by a judge will cost £600 rather than the £750 proposed in the 2011 consultation. This offers a considerable saving on the £1,200 it would cost to take a “level 2” claim all the way to full hearing. The lower fee to take the administratively simpler “level 1” claims to a full hearing will be £390 – which drops to £160 if settled before the hearing fee is payable.
Fees to use the employment tribunal will be payable in advance, and most types of charge will only apply to the person bringing the claim. However the tribunal will have the power to order the unsuccessful party to reimburse the fee to the successful party. In practice, cases are often settled rather than there being a clear ‘winner’ or ‘loser’ and the issue of reimbursement would form part of the settlement.
Many people on low incomes may not be required to pay the full fees.
The introduction of fees is part of the government’s Employment Law Review. The Ministry of Justice says it aims to maximise flexibility for both employers and employees while protecting fairness and providing a competitive business environment.
Taxpayers will continue to meet the full cost of the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) which provides a free service to help workers and businesses settle disputes without the need to go to a tribunal. All claims will be put to to ACAS to offer early conciliation before going to a tribunal.