The Scottish Government has announced that it plans to abolish the requirement to pay a fee to make a claim to an employment tribunal. This will, effectively, re-open free access to the enforcement of employment rights that was removed in July 2013.
For over 2 years, anyone wanting to make a claim to tribunal in England, Wales and Scotland has had to pay either £390 or £1200 unless they qualified for remission because they could show that they could not afford the fee.
Although the recent referendum vote meant that Scotland would remain part of Great Britain, it was decided that some powers would be transferred so that Scotland could make its own decisions on certain things. One of these things is administration of the tribunal system.
In its Programme for 2015/2016, the Scottish Government announced that, when it knows exactly how the transfer of functions would take place, it will seek to remove employment tribunal fees. It is therefore likely that the number of employment tribunal claims made in Scotland could increase by up to 80%.
This measure is not something that employers in Scotland alone need to be concerned about. It is possible, via various routes, for a claimant living and working in England, for a company based in England, to bring their claim in Scotland. These are:
1. any one of the respondents to the claim resides or carries on business in Scotland; and/or
2. one or more of the acts or omissions complained of in the claim took place in Scotland; and/or
3. the claim relates to a contract under which the work is or has been performed partly in Scotland; and/or
4. there is a connection with Great Britain, and the connection is at least partly with Scotland.
Employers whose business spans England and Scotland, or Wales and Scotland, need now to be wise to the fact that employees will be able to choose to bring their claim in Scotland in order to avoid paying a fee.
There is currently no date set for implementation of the abolition but it is likely to be during 2016.
In England and Wales, however, it seems that employment tribunal fees are here to stay for the time being. Trade Union, UNISON, has failed once again to bring about a judicial review of the use of fees.