The Ministry of Justice has released figures that show that in the first two months after tribunal fees were ruled unlawful, £1.8m has been reclaimed. The Government expect that refunds will total £33m for the fees that were in place between 2013 and 2017. Fees were abolished in July last year after the Supreme Court held them to obstruct access to justice and to be indirectly discriminatory against some groups. Immediately after the ruling the Government stated their intention to refund claimants and people were able to lodge claims from October.
Although this appears to be a relatively small number, experts expect that larger legal firms will be biding their time and doing a lot of work behind the scenes in preparation for lodging many more claims later in the year. It was also reported that a number of claims submitted were out of date and claimants were hoping that the courts would allow their cases to be heard, but it is likely that this will reduce as the length of time since fees were removed increases.
The Government revealed in December that the number of single claimant claims had increased by nearly 65% in July and August 2017 compared to the previous year as many people felt that they were now in a position to pursue claims that they previously would not have done. It is important to remember that not all of these claims will reach the hearing stage as the courts are able to weed out vexatious or spurious claims and pass on the costs of these claims back to the claimant. Interestingly, despite the increase in individual claims, the number of group claims reduced over this period.
The removal of fees can be worrying for some employers, particularly if they have a had a number of what would be considered ‘bad leavers’ in recent months. However, if employers continue to seek advice from Empire should there be an issue with an employee, they can demonstrate that they have acted reasonably, and have identified potential risks, should they face a claim they would have given themselves the greatest chance of success in defending it.