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Employment tribunal fees come into force

The UK has introduced fees for employment tribunals in an effort to cut costs for small businesses and speed up claims. The move has been strongly opposed by unions.

For claims such as unpaid invoices, workers will have to pay £160 to lodge a claim and £230 if the case goes ahead. Further fees will be applicable to appeal a decision. Higher profile cases such as unpaid dismissal will cost £250 and £950 respectively.

Those unable to pay can apply to have their fees reduced or waived and costs will be reduced in cases where two or more people claim against the same employer.

In the year to March 2012 there were 186,300 claims accepted by employment tribunals, but 27% of these were withdrawn.

Justice minister Helen Grant said: “It is not fair on the taxpayer to foot the entire £74m bill for people to escalate workplace disputes to a tribunal. We want people, where they can afford to do so, to pay a contribution.

“It is in everyone's interest to avoid drawn out disputes which emotionally damage workers and financially damage businesses. That's why we are encouraging quicker, simpler and cheaper alternatives like mediation.”

The CBI said it would help “weed out weaker claims” and said: “Fear of the costs of fighting a tribunal – even when you are in the right – is a massive confidence killer. With firms and employees waiting over a year for a tribunal at the moment, something has to be done to speed things up.”

And a spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses said: “For an employee, an employment tribunal can be seen as a ‘no cost’ option. The FSB hopes the introduction of fees will curb the number of speculative claims and help reduce the perceived risk of taking on staff.”

But Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “What we are seeing today is injustice writ large as this worker-bashing government takes a sledgehammer to workers' rights – this is a throwback to Victorian times.

“Seeking redress for unfair dismissal and discrimination and other injustices in the workplace is a fundamental human right – but now ministers are putting up insurmountable financial hurdles for working people in pursuit of justice.”

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