Landmark Ruling That Provokes Speculation

Claire Vane
August 3, 2017

You will have seen in the press from last week that the Supreme Court has banned Employment Tribunal Fees on the grounds that fees impede access to justice.

The Employment Tribunals are an independent judicial body established to resolve disputes between employers and employees over employment rights. The tribunal will hear claims about employment matters such as unfair dismissal, discrimination, wages and redundancy payments. Crucially for employers, being taken to Tribunal is costly and time consuming.

What's happened?

Introduced in July 2013 to discourage poor or vexatious claims, the fees have resulted in a 70% reduction in the number of tribunal claims, with many more disputes now settled within the workplace and much more quickly.  Following the latest ruling, steps are now being taken to stop the Tribunals Service charging fees, and refund those already paid since the introduction of the scheme. This is an enormous sum of money and is going to take time.

What does the fee reversal mean in practice?

We have seen many bulletins setting out the facts of the change, but it is perhaps worth some further speculation. In future, if fees are to be introduced they must be set at a level that people can afford, and we could see the introduction of a new fee system. Employees will now have the financial freedom to make claims as prior to 2013.  

We wonder, too, whether there will also be a sudden rise in individuals picking up the cudgels of a dispute that could perhaps have been solved lower down and in the workplace. This tends to happen during periods of uncertainty, like the current political environment in the UK. Employers are likely to become a little more nervous than in recent years about the various statutory routes to changing behaviour - procedures for dealing with absence, capability, disciplinary, and restructuring by reason of redundancy.

Of course, it’s always best practice to resolve issues as low down as possible and to keep the temperature down, and to prevent matters getting out of hand, but the bar on fees is likely to bring about a sharp rise in the number of claims taken to Tribunal and could be an excuse for not grasping thorny behavioural issues.

If you’d like to talk about the risk of Tribunal and how to mitigate those risks, as well as processes for disputes resolution and mediation, then do please get in touch

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