“[The Conservatives] were the party that introduced employment tribunal fees which prevent workers from getting justice when treated unfairly at work.”
Chuka Umunna MP, 6 October 2016
Fees for employment tribunals were introduced in July 2013 by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition government.
A person looking for compensation for, say, unpaid wages or unfair dismissal, has to pay between £400 and £1,200 to have the case heard. There are other fees which might have to be paid depending on the case, and these could be up to £600. To appeal a tribunal decision costs £1,600.
Before that, there was no fee to take a case. The government said this needed to change to “encourage early resolution of workplace disputes and in order to transfer some of the cost burden from the taxpayer to the users of the system”.
Tribunal judges have the power to order the employer to reimburse fees if the person taking the case is successful. There’s also a “fee remission scheme” to exempt people on low incomes. Around 40% of all fees paid were either fully or partially reimbursed last year.
The number of cases taken has fallen sharply since fees were introduced. The House of Commons Library says the continuing low level of claims may also have been affected by a conciliation scheme introduced in May 2014.