The Government has announced that fees of up to £1,200 may be charged for taking a claim to an Employment Tribunal.

The introduction of fees is part of the Government’s Employment Law Review and following the Ministry of Justice’s consultation with businesses and the public, some of the fees will be slightly lower than initially proposed.

Under the plans, from summer 2013, mediation by a judge will cost £600 rather than the £750 proposed in the 2011 consultation. 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.

Justice Minister, Jonathan Djanogly, said:

“It’s not fair on the taxpayer to foot the entire £84m bill for people to escalate workplace disputes to a Tribunal.

“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.”

Fees to use the Employment Tribunal will be payable in advance, and most types of fee 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.

Responding to the announcement TUC General Secretary, Brendan Barber, said:

“It is vital that working people have fair access to justice, but introducing fees for Tribunals will deter many – particularly those on low wages – from taking valid claims to court. Many of the UK’s most vulnerable workers will simply be priced out of justice.

“The Government’s remission scheme to protect low-paid employees is woefully inadequate, and workers will be more likely to be mistreated at work as rogue bosses will be able to flout the law without fear of sanction.”

Tim Thomas, Head of Employment Policy at EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, welcomed the announcement:

“Fees are one way to encourage more responsible behaviour by Tribunal users. We warmly welcome the announcement from the Government that realistic fees will be required from claimants in a way which will still preserve an incentive to settle.

“Employers have faced a steep rise in speculative claims in recent years, many of which are withdrawn or struck out, leaving employers picking up the bill. Claimants risk little under the current system. Fees, if properly introduced, will help check this rise.”

Workplace Law HR Consultant, Heidi Thompson, will be hosting an HR Troubleshooter session during the Facilities Management Legal Update, taking place on 18 October at the Workplace Law Executive Centre in London.