The GMB union is holding a rally in London over the new employment tribunal fees that came into force on the 29th July. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has backed the GMB’s stance and said it was “a great day for Britain’s worst bosses”.
The fees – which have been known about for months – have been introduced to cut down on vexatious claims that were costing companies millions of pounds and countless lost working hours. One cast iron condition of the scheme is that all fees will be refunded if an employee’s claim is successful – in which case the process would still be free to the claimant. However, the GMB insisted this was not guaranteed.
“By charging upfront fees for harassment and abuse claims, the government is making it easier for employers to get away with the most appalling behaviour,” said the TUC’s general secretary Frances O’Grady. Its only achievement will be to price vulnerable people out of justice.”
For all employment tribunal applications registered after 28 July 2013, the claimant must pay a registration fee of either £160 (for a level one claim such as an unlawful deduction from wages or a failure to provide a written statement of terms and conditions) or £250 (for a level two claim such as discrimination or unfair dismissal) followed by a hearing fee of either £230 (for level one claims) or £850 (for level two claims).
The move follows the coalition’s increase in the qualifying period for employment rights from one year to two and a reduction in the consultation time for over 100 redundancies from 90 days to 45.
GMB senior organiser Andy Prendergast said: “The imposition of such fees represents the latest in a number of attacks of employment rights by the government. With the introduction of employment tribunal fees, the government has given a green light to bad employers to continue exploiting their staff.”
He added: “While GMB will pay the fees of all case effecting [sic] its members, the charging of up to £1,200 effectively means that many workers will lose any chance they had to seek redress if they are poorly treated. They will be denied justice if they are discriminated against or if they are unfairly dismissed. It will become uneconomical to try to recover underpayments and as such provide a huge incentive for business to up profits at their employee’s expense.”
However, employment law specialist Bibby Consulting & Support described the fees as “fair and reasonable” and said they would go a long way to deterring employees from making unfounded claims.
Managing Director Michael Slade said: “We don’t believe that introducing a tribunal fee would prevent those employees with a truly genuine case from seeking justice. But we do believe that a reasonable fee will discourage those who bring proceedings against a company without any merit. Most businesses will want to support employees if they have a real grievance but they will also welcome the ability to filter out some of the weaker claims and certainly those that have no substance at all.”
He added: “We also think the charges will encourage companies and their staff to work closer together to resolve any differences and that can only be a good thing.”