Controversy over tribunal fees plan

Updated: 
Jonathan DjanoglyThe Government has sparked controversy by announcing a fee of up to £1,200 for taking claims to an employment tribunal.

Unions branded the decision a "disgrace" and warned that workers would be denied their right to justice, but business groups welcomed the move - though complained that most claimants would be exempt from the new rules.

Ministers pointed out that tribunals cost the taxpayer more than £84 million a year, with no contribution from those taking claims.

Cases involving unpaid wages and redundancy pay will have an initial fee of £160 and a charge of £230 if it goes to a hearing, while those relating to unfair dismissal, discrimination complaints and equal pay claims will have an issue fee of £250 and a hearing fee of £950.

Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly said: "It's not fair on the taxpayer to foot the entire £84 million 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."

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.

Alexander Ehmann of the Institute of Directors, said: "The IoD strongly supports the Government's decision to introduce user fees for employment tribunals to make people think twice before submitting vexatious or weak claims. Businesses are too often forced to defend themselves against claims which have no merit, incurring heavy costs in the process.

"However, the IoD is concerned that under current proposals many unemployed claimants will have their fees waived despite having the means to pay. Even the Government accepts this could mean that the majority of claimants are exempt from their new rules - a result that would undermine the entire purpose."

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