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Employment tribunal fees were introduced during July 2013 by the Employment Tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal Fees Order 2013 (SI 2013/1893)Prior to that, since the creation of the employment tribunal system, claimants were not required to pay fees to bring their claims.  Under the Order, claimants had to pay separate fees to issue their claims and have them heard.  Fee levels differed according to the nature of the claim. 

On 26 July 2017 the Supreme Court declared the Fees Order to be an unlawful interference with the common law right of access to justice, and quashed it. Employment tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal claims no longer attract fees.   

On 15 November 2017 the Government announced the roll out of the employment tribunal refund scheme via which those who paid fees will be reimbursed.

The introduction of fees coincided with a steep decline in the number of cases received by employment tribunals. The number of single cases (brought by one person) received per quarter was 68% lower between October 2013 and June 2017 than in the year to June 2013. The average number of multiple cases (brought by two or more people) received per quarter fell by 75% over the same period. After the Supreme Court ruled fees to be unlawful, the number of cases increased sharply in August and September 2017 but still remain some way off pre-2013 levels.

On 11 June 2015 the Conservative Government announced the start of a post-implementation review of tribunal fees. The review was published on 31 January 2017.

On 21 July 2015 the House of Commons Justice Select Committee announced an inquiry into courts and tribunal fees, including employment tribunal fees.  The Committee published its report on 20 June 2016, concluding that fees should be reduced, restructured and subject to a more generous remissions system.  The Committee was highly critical of the Government’s delay in publishing its post-implementation review.  On 9 November 2016, the Government responded to the Committee’s report.  The Government’s substantive response on the issue of employment tribunal fees formed a single paragraph of the response document.  The Committee’s Chair described the response as “offensively perfunctory”.  The aforementioned review, published on 31 January 2017, provided a point-by-point response to the Committee.

A thematic digest of the evidence submitted to the Committee inquiry as it relates to employment tribunal fees is provided below (see supporting documents).  

This note summarises the background to and operation of the fees system, provides a statistical analysis of its impact, and discusses the legal challenges to the Fees Order culminating in the Supreme Court’s judgment that it was unlawful.

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