I have today published a consultation paper on introducing fees in the employment tribunal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal. The introduction of fees to these bodies will relieve pressure on the taxpayer by transferring some of the cost burden from taxpayers to users. It will also encourage parties to think through whether they might settle their disputes earlier and faster by using other less adversarial methods of dispute resolution, such as ACAS conciliation, which will continue to be provided free to users.
At a time of economic difficulty, I also recognise that Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service provides a vital service to business, and must play its part in the Government’s determination to confront the structural barriers that create unnecessary delay or cost to business, or impede competitiveness, employer confidence and the creation of jobs.
These tribunals cost the taxpayer over £84 million per annum and currently no financial contribution is sought from users. The Government think it is right that those who cause the system to be used should contribute towards the cost, in the same way as users of other parts of the justice system contribute to the costs of providing the service. Therefore the principle of charging fees is not in question in this consultation.
The purpose of the consultation exercise is to seek views on two options for a fee charging structure in the employment tribunals and the fee structure proposed for the Employment Appeal Tribunal—all of which incorporate safeguards to protect access to the tribunal for those unable to afford fees.
The consultation closes on the 6 March 2012. For those of you who wish to respond the document is available online, at www.justice.gov.uk.