Have the Government Made Another Mistake on ET Fees

In the Judicial Review brought by Fox and Partners in the Court of Session in Scotland in respect of employment tribunal fees, the Lord Chancellor conceded that Equal Pay claims were type A claims for the purposes of the Fees Order because they are complaints in relation to a breach of the sex equality clause  in terms of section 66 of the Equality Act 2010. This is despite the Fees Order saying they were Type B claims attracting the higher fee on issue and hearing.  It was suggested this was a drafting error and Ministers would want to amend the Fees Order.

I think I may have spotted a further drafting error.  I recently chaired a working party for the Employment Lawyers Association responding to the ACAS consultation on amending paragraphs 15 and 36 of the code of practice on Discipline and Grievance following the EAT decision in Toal and another v GB Oils Ltd UKEAT/0177/13DM.  If you are interested, you can find our response here http://www.elaweb.org.uk/sites/default/files/docs/ELA%20Response_ACAS%20consultation%20on%20Code_Discip_Griev_7Jan14%20%282%29.pdf

It is necessary for the Chair of the Association to approve any response before it is submitted.  He approved our response but asked me whether a fee was payable to bring a claim under Section 10 of the Employment Relations Act 1999, where an employer refuses to allow a worker to be accompanied by a companion of their choice at a grievance or disciplinary hearing.  I knew the answer to that was “yes” but I couldn’t answer the follow up question which was what was the level of fee.  I always assumed it was a type A claim.

I went to the fees order and was very surprised to see the claim was not listed in Table 2 of Schedule 2 as a type A claim, attracting the lower fee of £160 on issue and £230 for hearing.

This means that an worker wishing to bring a claim under S.10 of the Employment Relations Act 1999 must pay an issue fee of £250 and a hearing fee of £950.

Bearing in mind that the remedy for breach is compensation of an amount not exceeding 2 weeks pay and a weeks pay has the usual maximum of £450, a worker will have to spend £1200 to get back £900.  Of course, if they succeed they should have their fees paid by the losing party, but this is not automatically the case.

But it is worse, as a result of the decision in Toal  we now know that the word “compensation” in S.11 (3) of the Employment Relations Act 1999 requires the worker to prove they have suffered actual loss and nominal damages may be appropriate where no actual loss can be proven.

Type B cases are meant to be the more complex and costly claims.  I cannot believe the Government assessed S.10 claims are complex and so more costly.  Currently, who is going to speculate £1200 to win a maximum of £900 in compensation?  The right under S.10 becomes meaningless.

So is this a further example of the rushed nature of introducing the legislation on employment tribunal fees last July leading to errors in drafting?  Will the MoJ agree to remedy the error in the same way as they did with Equal Pay claims?

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