Today saw good news for Access to Justice.
Today the government announced that it would no longer be charging extortionate Court fees to those who wish to bring a claim to the employment tribunal. They will also be refunding those who have already had to make payments under the old rules.
Preventing Access to Justice
In 2013 the government introduced high Court fees for those looking to bring claims against their employers for unlawful conduct. The reasoning behind these large fees was to restrict access to the Employment tribunal and prevent people bringing frivolous claims. It was to give people pause before bringing a claim as a claim was now a substantial investment of both a Claimant’s time and money. You had to be extremely confident in your likelihood of success as there would be financial consequences of over £1,000.00 in Court fees alone if you should lose.
However, what happened was that people who had valid claims were suddenly unable to afford to bring a claim at the employment tribunal. This restricted access to justice for the majority of Claimants and the Employment Tribunal saw a 79% drop in claims over the last three years.
The Fees Order
The Fees Order requires that the Claimant pays an Issue fee when they put a claim form to the Employment Tribunal and then pay a Hearing fee shortly before the Tribunal hears the case. Effectively paying a fee to have the initial paperwork lodged at the Court and then paying a second fee for the Tribunal to review all of the paper work, sit through the Hearing and decide.
The size of the fee would depend on the type of claim, type A or type B. Type A claims include unpaid wages, etc. and are very quick matters to deal with; type B claims would be for more serious issues such as unfair dismissal or discrimination. Type A claims would cost in the region of £390.00 while type B claims would cost £1,200.00.
Fee remission is possible, but it is highly dependent on your (and your partners) income, as well as if you have children.
R (on the application of UNISON) (Appellant) – v - Lord Chancellor (Respondent)
UNISON brought the claim stating that the fees were denying people access to justice by preventing them from obtaining legal redress when their employer potentially acted unlawfully. UNISON was successful, and the Court found that it was unlawful for fees to be charged under both UK and EU law due to the way they limited access to justice.
It was announced that steps would be taken immediately not only to stop charging fees but also to refund fees that had already been paid.
So all in all a win for Access to Justice.