According to the Ministry of Justice, more than £1.8 million has been processed since the charging of employment tribunal fees was declared illegal. Over 4,600 applications for refunds had been received between 20 October and 18 December 2017 and this had resulted in £1,808,310 being refunded to claimants.
In July of last year, the Supreme Court ruled that the Tribunal fees regime, where a claimant was required to pay a fee to bring their claim against an employer to Court, was unlawful as it infringed the rights of employees - in some circumstances making access to justice impossible. This followed a legal challenge by Unison.
Justice Minister, Dominic Raab told the Justice Committee that employment tribunal fee refunds were expected to be in the region of £33m, based on the fees paid since they were introduced in 2013. It is likely the number of people entitled to a refund could reach 100,000.
It is thought that the refunds consist of the actual amount a claimant paid for the Tribunal - plus interest of 0.5% calculated from the date of the original payment to the refund date.
Catherine Greig, a senior associate at MacRoberts, commented on the refunds already made, saying,
“The numbers are so small at the moment because of the small timeframe. However, bigger legal firms could be doing a lot of admin for claims behind the scenes and it could be a case of the floodgates opening soon because they’ll be sitting on claims.”
Nicholas Robertson, head of employment at Mayer Brown’s London office, said,
“There may have been some late claims lodged immediately after the Unison case, where claimants were prevented from suing by the potential fees and are bringing older claims now, as quickly as possible, and relying on the tribunal to permit such out of date claims to go ahead. This feature by its very nature will be short-lived.”
“I said after the outcome of the Unison case that my instinct was that there would be more tribunal claims, but it remains to be seen if tribunal claims will return to the levels before the introduction of the fees regime. My view is that they will not return to those levels.”
He added that fewer claims were being lodged by multiple claimants - which may suggest people were being advised that it was safer to bring a claim individually.
“The tribunal system’s resources were reduced to handle a reduced level of anticipated claims. So increased hearing times are not surprising even if there is only a relatively modest increase in the number of claims.”
The removal of the Tribunal fees leaves a gap in Government funding increased by the refunds that will be paid. However, there is no indication as yet that a new fee regime will be introduced.
However, it has been advised that employers should be vigilant in their treatment of staff to ensure fair practice is maintained across the workforce and that policies and procedures are in not only in place, but followed.