The Scottish Government's Programme for Government which was published yesterday states:
"We will abolish fees for employment tribunals when we are clear on how the transfer of powers and responsibilities will work."
The document also indicates that the Scottish Government "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." This could mean that there will be more far reaching changes to the operation of Employment Tribunals in Scotland.
Employment Tribunal fees have applied UK wide since July 2013. For a standard unfair dismissal claim a claimant must pay £250 to lodge a claim and £950 as a hearing fee (which is paid shortly before the full hearing). Fee remissions are available but the circumstances in which these are granted are very limited. The number of Employment Tribunal claims have plummeted UK wide since fees were introduced.
The Tribunal statistics highlight that the number of Employment Tribunal claims for the period April 2014 to March 2015 was only 61,306. This compares to 105,803 claims in 2013/2014 and, perhaps more significantly, to 191,541 claims for April 2012 to March 2013, which was the last full 12 month period during which no fee required to be paid by a claimant in order to raise a claim.
UNISON have raised court proceedings in England & Wales arguing that the Tribunal fees are causing a barrier to justice but have so far been unsuccessful. For details of UNISON's latest unsuccessful challenge to Employment Tribunal fees see:
The UK Government recently launched a review into Employment Tribunal fees. The review is expected to be finished later this year and the UK Government has said that it will consult on any proposals for reforms to the fees and the remission scheme. The Government's terms of reference for the review can be found here.
As we have mentioned previously, Tribunal powers in relation to administration and management of Tribunals are expected to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Government's announcement yesterday means that we could end up with a situation where there are no Tribunal fees for claims in Scotland but fees where the claim is raised in England & Wales.
The timescale for abolition of the fees in Scotland is, as yet, unclear.