It was big news last year. But it’s not over. When the Supreme Court’s ruling to abolish employment tribunal fees hit the headlines, employers across the UK took note. You may be one of them. Perhaps you’ve been through an employment tribunal before. And whether you won or lost, you probably won’t want to relive that time of your life again. But the ruling has brought long-gone tribunals back to life. How? People can now claim back any tribunal fees they paid. And it applies to both employers and employees. So, are you due a refund? Let’s find out… Why were fees abolished? But before we do, let’s recap what happened. Back in 2013, the government introduced tribunal fees of up to £1200 to try and cut down on the number of frivolous claims. Because there were no fees up until that point, many people were putting in a claim just to try their luck. It was free after all, so they had nothing to lose. Four years later, the Supreme Court ruled that tribunal fees were unfair and a form of indirect discrimination. People who had legitimate grievances but couldn’t afford the fees had no way to make a claim. And because fees for discrimination cases tended to be higher, this discouraged people with protected characteristics (age, gender, race and so on) from speaking up. And so fees were banned. But that wasn’t the end of it. The government still has to refund all the fees it collected—a whopping £32 million in total. Are you eligible for a refund? As an employer, you can apply for a refund if an employee made a tribunal claim against you and the tribunal ordered you to reimburse the fees. To support your application, you need to provide HM Courts & Tribunal Service with:
- A copy of the order of the tribunal
- Proof that you paid the fees, usually a bank statement
Refunds for employees Employees can apply online for a refund if:
- They paid a tribunal fee
- The claim was against one employer
- They have the same name since making the claim
Employees who made a claim against more than one employer or have since changed their name must apply by email or post. Is the ban here to stay? The government has admitted that the previous system didn’t strike the right balance between weeding out opportunists and allowing those with real complaints to access the courts. The then Justice Secretary, David Lidington, announced the government was reviewing the judgment and would announce new fees in “due course.” With no fees at all right now, employers face a huge uptake in claims. But if the fees do make a comeback, they’ll probably be much lower than they were before the ban.