Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Important news – Employment Tribunal fees will be scrapped

UNISON have won their Supreme Court challenge against the imposition of Employment Tribunal Fees. The Supreme Court website is about a week out of date and at the time of writing the full judgment is not listed however UNISON has issued a press release.

The introduction of fees, four years ago, is one factor that has contributed to rising claims costs for legal expenses insurers; however the potential costs savings to be realised following the scrapping of fees will be tempered by a potential increase in the volume of claims. UNISON’s victory will not be welcomed by businesses whose vulnerability to be claimed against will return.

We don’t yet know whether fees will be refunded automatically or whether, in the future, it will be possible to charge a lower fee.

UNISON makes a valid point when it says, “We’ll never know how many people missed out because they couldn’t afford the expense of fees. But at last this tax on justice has been lifted.”

ARAG policyholders will not be in the unknown pool of individuals who were deterred from pursing their employment dispute as their decision to take out Family Legal Solutions has given them protection against the unfair fees. Business policyholders who settle fees or are ordered to pay them have also been covered.     

ACAS’s 2016-17 report shows that around 1800 requests for early conciliation are received each week on average. Just below 50% of cases settle through ACAS early mediation and avoid being escalated to a hearing. ARAG policyholders have the reassurance of legal representation throughout early conciliation and beyond.

In relation to employment disputes, the fees have enabled the Government to save around one-third of the costs needed to run employment tribunals. Since introducing fees for employment claims other tribunal jurisdictions have introduced a fee system. For example, low fees of £100 for an application/ £200 for a hearing are payable for claimants seeking dispute resolution through the Property Chamber of the First Tier Tribunal. This level of fee seems much fairer and it’s possible the employment tribunals could adopt something similar.

Aside from charging fees in tribunals, did you know that last year HM Courts & Tribunal Services turned a profit of £100m through the imposition of “enhanced court fees”?  Enhanced court fees apply where court fees are set at a level that exceeds the state’s cost of running a case. This in effect turns courts into profit centres.  We deal with a number of landlord repossession claims and the last hike in fees increased court fees for landlords by 20%.  As tribunal fees have been judged to be unfair surely these enhanced fees are also unfair? 

ARAG’s vision is that all citizens should be able to afford to assert their legal rights and we exist to protect consumers, landlords and businesses against incurring heavy expenses to make or defend a claim. While the abolition of employment tribunal fees is welcome news for employees we will keep a close eye on the impact the decision might have on our business policyholders and we remain concerned at the high cost of bringing other types of claim. 

No comments:

Post a Comment