Following July’s landmark decision by the Supreme Court as to their unlawfulness, Whitehall has announced it shall delay any announcement as to the mechanics behind the refunding of the employment tribunal fees.
This announcement came via employment law barrister Daniel Barnett of London’s Outer Temple Chambers in which he explained that, in advance of the judgment, an undertaking was given to the Supreme Court to refund Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal fees, should they be declared unlawful.
This now requires plans to be put in place to deal with what Mr Barnett refers to as “detailed arrangements” which enables the undertaking to be met in the most simplistic and unobtrusive manner as possible for those who make an application. At the same time, there needs to be safeguards put in place to ensure the refunds are only paid to those who are entitled. Further, there are issues to overcome in matters where, for example, applications are submitted for refunds in claims involving multiple claimants. And then there are the respondents: what provisions are in place to deal where the employment tribunal had ordered the opposing party to reimburse a fee?
The refund is expected to cost around £32 million. As such, the mechanics to deal with what is likely to be a deluge of applications, now being announced during September, is an indication that the justice secretary’s intention of immediate steps being taken – to both stop charging fees at tribunal, while putting in place refund arrangements – are on track.
Naturally, there has been criticism of the announcement and the implication that people will have to make an application being seemingly “profoundly unsatisfactory”. However, if the expectation was that the Government would be required to cherry-pick each and every case to determine whether or not a fee was due, then the cost of such an exercise would undoubtedly see the overall outlay exceed the £32m figure mooted.
Clearly, there is a lot of work to be done, and businesses would be well advised to work with their HR departments in carrying out a root and branch review as to all cases that ended up in a tribunal, and looking at those outcomes which resulted in them being ordered to pay the fees.
For more information or if you require assistance with an employment tribunal, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the HPC team today:
T: 0844 800 5932
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