The Scottish Government has announced that it plans to abolish Employment Tribunal fees in Scotland. Whilst contingent upon the transfer of powers from Westminster, as proposed in the current Scotland Bill, this move will mark a significant change for employers north of the Border. Could this pave the way for a two-tier system in the UK, where employees in Scotland will not pay the fees that those in the rest of the UK have to?
The Programme for Government document, published by the Scottish Government this week, states: “We will abolish fees for employment Tribunals when we are clear on how the transfer of powers and responsibilities will work. We will consult on the shape of services that can best support people’s access to employment justice as part of the transfer of the powers for Employment Tribunals to Scotland.”
The current fees, which have been subject unsuccessfully to legal challenge by the Public Sector trade union Unison, were introduced in April 2014. They act to disincentive weak claims with little prospect of success. However, the level of fee which can see an employee fork out up to £1200 simply to get to Tribunal in most cases, has led to a 70% drop in Tribunal claims and a concern that the doors of justice have now been shut to those who do not have the personal resources to meet the fees or are not in a Trade Union that will pay the fee.
Under the new structure, parties have to pay an upfront fee to raise a claim, followed by a further ‘hearing fee’ once the case is referred to a Tribunal. Claim types are subdivided into the administratively simple ‘Type A’ claims, with fees of £160 and £230; and ‘Type B’ unfair dismissal or discrimination claims, with fees of £250 and £950. Flat fees apply to Employment Appeal Tribunal cases. A remission system operates to exempt people on low incomes from having to pay the full fees.
In an interesting twist, the scrapping of Employment Tribunal fees in Scotland brings the possibility that employees outside of Scotland, in certain circumstances, may bring their claim to the Scottish Tribunals to avoid a fee. Scottish Tribunals would be able to hear cases brought by workers based outside of Scotland whose employer is headquartered, or perhaps even just have an office in Scotland.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. The best approach for employers is to avoid Tribunal cases in the first place. To make sure you’re doing the right things and doing them well, take specialist HR advice early, and minimise the chances of receiving claims from disgruntled employees.
The HR Dept is here to help with this so please get in touch.
This post was written by Ian Pilbeam. Click here to see what Ian and his team provide to his local business community with The HR Dept Edinburgh and The Lothians.