The Government has today scrapped free access to employment tribunals meaning employees could be forced to pay up to £1,200 for a full hearing.
Employees can take their employer to a tribunal if they think they have been treated unfairly or their employer has broken the law.
The Ministry of Justice expects the change to save £84m a year with greater focus on mediation and settlements and only using hearings as a last resort. There is no specific start date but the MoJ says rules will apply from this summer.
It says the aim is to reduce the taxpayer subsidy to tribunals by transferring some of the cost to those who use the service.
Taxpayers will continue to meet the full cost of the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service which provides a free service to help workers and businesses settle disputes without the need to go to a tribunal.
The cuts will see mediation by a judge costing £600. A full Level 1 hearing will cost £390, which drops to £160 if the dispute is settled before the bill is due, and more complex Level 2 hearings will cost £1,200.
Fees to use the employment tribunal will be payable in advance and most types of fee will only apply to the person bringing the claim.
The tribunal will have the power to order the unsuccessful party to reimburse the fee to the successful party. In practice, cases are often settled rather than there being a clear winner or loser and the issue of reimbursement would form part of the settlement.
The MoJ says many people on low incomes may not be required to pay the full fees under the same remission system which already exists for those paying fee to the civil courts’ services.
Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly says: “It’s not fair on the taxpayer to foot the entire £84m bill for people to escalate workplace disputes to a tribunal.
“We want people, where they can, to pay a fair contribution for the system they are using, which will encourage them to look for alternatives.
“It is in everyone’s interest to avoid drawn out disputes which emotionally damage workers and financially damage businesses. That’s why we are encouraging quicker, simpler and cheaper alternatives like mediation.”