As of today, for the first time in their history the Employment Tribunals will charge fees to parties.
There are 2 tiers of fees for Claimants.
For unpaid wages and certain other less complicated cases there is a fee of £160 to pay to begin the case and a further fee of £230 to pay for the Hearing itself. For unfair dismissal, discrimination and certain other potentially more complex matters the issue fee is £250 and the Hearing Fee is £950.
There are other fees to pay when making an application in proceedings, including an application for reconsideration of a decision, and for an appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.
This brings the Employment Tribunals in line with the civil courts where the people using them have to pay and is clearly intended to reduce the number of claims, which are perceived as a hindrance to business.
It rather overlooks the fact that the parties, as taxpayers, have already paid for the justice system. If people have genuine Claims then they should not be deterred from pursuing them because of lack of funds. If Claims are vexatious then the Tribunal already has powers to strike them out or award the employer its costs.
The obvious problem with fees is that if you have just been sacked or if your employer does not pay your wages you cannot afford to pay the Tribunal Service. To address this there is a fee remission system.
If you receive certain state benefits there are no fees to pay.
Similarly if your gross annual household (both partners) income is below certain limits (the figure varies depending on the number of children you have) or if your net monthly disposable income after various allowances are applied is less than £50 there are no fees to pay. If your disposable income is more than £50 you may qualify for a partial rebate.
As part of the introduction of fees the Tribunal Service has introduced new Claim (ET1) and Response (ET3) Forms but as of 10.00 a.m today these have not yet gone live so how anyone is supposed to make a Claim to the Employment Tribunal today is anyone's guess.
But perhaps that is the idea...