There’s nothing like time-pressure to get people motivated.
This is particularly true in relation to the new Employment Tribunal fees system, with definitive and finalised guidance on the new system being published only a matter of office hours before it takes effect on Monday 29 July 2013.
The new system will take effect despite two ongoing applications for Judicial Review, which claim that it will unduly disadvantage Claimants. The results are eagerly awaited and, in the meantime, the government has undertaken to refund any fees paid, with interest, if either Judicial Review (if granted) finds the new system to be unlawful.
In summary, with effect from 29 July 2013:
- an Issue Fee will be payable by any Claimant who brings an Employment Tribunal claim (where there is only 1 Claimant, either £160 or £250 depending on the type of claim);
- the Issue Fee will be payable at the same time as submitting the claim, either by debit or credit card via the HMCTS website or by sending a cheque with a hard copy claim form to the central HMCTS office in Leicester;
- a Hearing Fee will be payable by the Claimant before any final Hearing of their claim (where there is only 1 Claimant, either £230 or £950 depending on the type of claim);
- the relevant Tribunal venue will write to the Claimant to specify when the Hearing Fee must be paid. The Hearing Fee will be payable either by debit or credit card via the HMCTS website or by sending a cheque to the central HMCTS office in Leicester;
- an Application Fee will be payable by any party making certain applications or requests. The amount of the Application Fee will depend on the nature of the application or request made. The Application Fee will be payable at a date specified by the Tribunal after the application or request is received by it, again by debit or credit card via the HMCTS website or by sending a cheque to the central HMCTS office in Leicester; and
- a Judicial Mediation Fee of £600 will be payable by the Respondent at a date specified by the Tribunal, should the parties agree to mediate the claim, by debit or credit card via the HMCTS website or by sending a cheque to the central HMCTS office in Leicester.
The new system will undoubtedly help to weed out weak and vexatious claims.
However, with effect from 29 July 2013, Claimants who believe they are unable to pay the relevant fees can submit an application for remission to HMCTS. There will be a standard remission application form available on the HMCTS website.
The remission scheme is available to those in receipt of certain qualifying benefits or those who satisfy a means-test. Arguably, this will cover all unemployed Claimants, and means that the new fees system is unlikely to have the desired effect of transferring some of HMCTS’ running costs to its service users. There will probably be an increased amount of administration required to progress a claim as a result.
If any application for remission is successful, part or all of the relevant fee may be waived. A fresh application for remission must be made every time that a fee is otherwise payable, again increasing the amount of administration required.
The remission scheme is unfortunately not available to Respondents, unless they are sole traders. The above qualifying criteria would then apply.
The Tribunal will not accept any claim which is not accompanied by either a fee or a remission application, and any party who fails to pay or make a remission application later in the process risks having any application or request refused. As such, it’s important for all parties to make sure they are up to speed on the new requirements.
Whilst the Tribunal already has the power to awards costs on conclusion of a case (in limited and rare circumstances), it will now also have the power on conclusion of a case to order an unsuccessful party to reimburse any fees paid by the successful party, bringing Tribunal powers in closer alignment with the civil courts.
It seems that this will be easier to satisfy than the existing threshold for a costs application in the Tribunal. However, the Tribunal’s power to reimburse fees will be discretionary and may not be frequently used in practice - time will tell.
Finally, it’s likely that reimbursement of fees paid will have to be factored into any settlement arrangements should a claim be resolved without the need for a final Hearing in the Tribunal. Parties to a claim should take extra care to budget accordingly when negotiating on or after 29 July 2013.
If you’d like further information on the new fees system, or require specialist advice on how to deal with an Employment Tribunal matter, please do get in touch.
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