Following the Supreme Court’s ruling in July this year to overturn the decision – as to the legality of Employment Tribunal fees – made by the High Court in 2013 and Appeal Court in 2015, there has finally been some progress. There had been something of a lull in terms of a clear plan been put forward by the Ministry of Justice in respect of refunds to those who had paid out over the past four years.
The Government announced in October that a first phase of people applying for refunds in single claims would be handled first. This was understood to involve around 1000 applicants.
The entire program has now been opened up to all who can now apply for refund. This is naturally good news for Claimants, not only those seeking refunds, but also those in future.
Equally, it spells bad news for employers, who are likely to see an upsurge in ET claims against them.
Since the introduction of fees in July 2013, they have risen from £160 up to the latest £950. In some instances, Claimants were paying as much as £1200.
The MoJ, having worked in conjunction with trade unions – with Unison the biggest backer of the appeal – expects the refund cost alone to be around £32m. Large actions, which the unions have supported, are likely to involve hundreds of claimants. At a time when figures reveal the MoJ budget has been SLASHED by 40% since 2013, this is likely to wreak further havoc for an already-tested service.
It should probably come as little surprise then that, when faced with the prospect of having to fill a £32m black hole, the MoJ is planning a fee reintroduction in the future, pointing out the Supreme Court “recognised the important role fees can play”.
While the ruling is likely to attract an element of revisionism from the Government, thus prompting questions as the veracity behind a second introduction of fees, the reality for employers is that there will be an upsurge in employment claims for the foreseeable future. And given the Supreme Court has already proven it will uphold the law rather than hold-up a government, it is highly likely that any attempt by the MoJ to push forward with fees in the future, will be met with similar opposition.
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