Following a recent Supreme Court ruling on an appeal lodged by Unison, the fees for industrial tribunals introduced on 2013 have been reversed. Since 2013 claimants had to pay a fee to submit a claim, which resulted in 70% reduction in the number of claims in the three years to 2016. The Supreme court has ruled that fees were too high, discriminatory and have prevented unimpeded access to justice.
What impact will this have on employers?
- Future tribunal submissions will not attract a fee.
- Similarly appeals will have no fee attached.
- Fees paid since 2013 will be refunded by the Lord Chancellors Department (Est £28m-£30m).
- Where employers have been ordered to reimburse the claimant for fees since 2013, it is possible that these fees will be repaid by the Lord Chancellors Office to the employer – although this is yet to be confirmed.
- It is expected that the number of appeals will increase to pre 2013 levels. Typically, an average of 5,000 tribunals a year vs an average of 1,500 a year over the past 3 years
- With an increase in the number of tribunals since the judgement, it is likely capacity issues will occur which will inevitably slow down the process.
- Some individuals may try to argue that the fees prevented them from making a claim since 2013 and try to bring claims now (despite the usual 3 month time limitation from the date of the act to the date of the claim).
- There Is a possibility that the government may look to introduce fees, but at a lower level. In view of fact the court has held these to be discriminatory, it may be some considerable time before they are re-introduced.
The number of claims is likely to increase with more marginal claims being made at no cost to the individual claimant.
Employers may wish to consider reviewing any actual and potential employment tribunal proceedings against them since 2013 and see whether fees were paid which could be reimbursed or fees prevented the claimant from proceeding.
Employers should ensure that their own HR procedures are robust and that policies within their staff handbooks, job descriptions and contracts of employment are all up to date and fit for purpose.