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Tribunal fees, this much we don’t know

What will the biggest changes to employment law in decades mean for employees?

Employment tribunal changes
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    Nick is an employment and discrimination lawyer who worked in-house with a trade union before joining Leigh Day. You can follow him on twitter @nwebsternjw
    The biggest changes to Employment Law for decades came into force on 29th July 2013. From this date people wishing to make a claim against their employer had to pay fees of up to £1200 to make a claim and have a hearing, thereby excluding thousands of men and women from making a legitimate claim against their employer, regardless of the manner in which they have been treated at work.

    These changes send a very dangerous message to employers who will be less inclined to abide by their legal obligations, as the risk of being challenged will be much reduced.

    These fees will disproportionately hit those suffering discrimination because of their age, race, disability and gender with women returning from maternity leave particularly hard hit.

    So what are the changes and what do we know about how they will be handled? The honest answer is ‘not as much as we should’; raising fears that the whole tribunal process will be thrown into chaos come 29 July.

    So what will happen on 29 July 2013?

    Workers and employees must pay a fee to make a claim in the employment tribunal. This applies to all claims whether for discrimination, unfair dismissal, unpaid wages.

    What if I cannot afford to pay?

    If you are on a low enough income you can apply to pay a reduced fee or no fee but you have to prove this by completing a ‘remission application’

    How do I find about all this new law?

    There’s the rub: the law has not actually been passed yet; it is only in draft

    So when will it be passed?

    No one knows

    So where do I go next?

    You could ask the Employment Tribunal Public Enquiry Line on 0845 795 9775 – we did!

    So, what did they say?

    We ‘cannot be sure’ but our understanding is from the training we received that:

        Generally, you will lodge a claim online in a Central Processing Office with the specified fee, which is £160 or £250
        You can also send the claim to one of the Regional Employment Tribunal Offices (with the fee), but probably (we are told) not just a local tribunal office
        You can pay in cash, probably, either at the Central Processing Office or at the Regional Employment Tribunal Office
        You do not have to send a completed fee remission application form at the time you send the claim but just need to tick a box to say you will be applying; it is not clear how long you have for sending in the remission application
        You cannot, probably, complete the fee remission application on-line, but will have to send it by post
        The claim will be date stamped when first received by the Central Processing Office or the Regional Employment Tribunal Office – probably.

    And, say the Employment Tribunal Public Enquiry Line, sorry we have no written information to send you to confirm the position.

    Will the employment tribunal claim form be the same?

    No

    So where do I find it?

    We don’t know, nor does the Employment Tribunal Public Enquiry Line

    Is all of this consistent with the new Employment Tribunal rules which come in the same day?

    We do not think so because the rules say…

        The Employment Tribunal shall reject a claim if it is not accompanied by a Tribunal fee or a remission application;
        If the remission application is refused the Employment Tribunal shall send the claimant a notice specifying a day for payment of the fee (not to amend the application form).

    Why does no-one have the answers?

    We don’t know nor does the Employment Tribunal Public Enquiry Line, helpful as they are trying to be. Perhaps we can ask the Ministry of Justice?

    So how do we know?

    Only from talking to the Public Inquiry Line. So, we have to give the disclaimer that ‘all this information is only provisional and subject to change’.

    What next?

    There are two legal cases challenging the unfairness and discriminatory nature of the rules. It is possible that fees will be delayed, but don’t bank on it – nor much else to do with the fees.

    We are left with the questions…

        How do employees, with no-one to support them, find their way through a system which is a mystery to all?
        Where is the justice in a system with no transparency, no certainty, no information?

    …with currently no answers!

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