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Government tight-lipped on tribunal repayments

By Max Walters

The government is unable to announce details of when and how it will reimburse claimants who had to pay unlawful employment tribunal fees, more than one month after the Supreme Court ruled against the fees.

In the first justice questions of the new parliamentary term today, minister of state Dominic Raab was repeatedly asked when details of the repayment process would be announced. He said only that the government would reveal plans ‘shortly’.

Raab said the government wanted to ensure that all considerations are properly taken into account before it announces further steps.

In July the government was forced to abandon employment tribunal fees after the Supreme Court ruled them to be illegal. The ruling by seven justices overturned judgments by the High Court in 2013 and the Court of Appeal in 2015 and prompted the government to scrap the fees and make plans to reimburse claimants.

In a further development today, Raab also said that those who were priced out of bringing a claim in the first place would be able to reapply outside the normal limitation period and that cases would be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

However, Matt Jackson, a barrister at Invictus Chambers, told the Gazette that this announcement changed little. He said that anyone bringing a late claim would still have to prove to the tribunal that it was not reasonably practicable for them to bring a claim at the time.

’The only difference now would be that a claimant could now argue that the fees have been declared unlawful,’ he said, though he added that questions may still be asked about a claimant’s financial position at the time.

Tribunal fees were introduced in July 2013 by a fees order made by then lord chancellor Chris Grayling. They started at around £160, and increased to between £230 and £950 for further hearings. For certain claims claimants had to pay up to £1,200.

Asked directly by shadow justice minister Richard Burgon to apologise to those who were forced to pay to bring their claim, Raab admitted that the government ‘got the balance wrong’ but stressed that the court clarified that fees have a part to play in the tribunal system.

He said: ‘We admit we got the balance wrong and took immediate steps to address this. Of course, I am happy to say sorry to anyone who was impacted by this and that is why we are putting in place measures to ensure people are compensated. Those plans will be publicised shortly.’

(Courtesy: Law Society Gazette)