The government has announced its employment tribunal fees refund scheme.  This comes after Justice Minister, Dominic Raab committed to reimbursing all fees paid since they were introduced in July 2013, in the wake of the ruling of the Supreme Court (the UK's highest court) in July this year that the fees being charged in employment tribunal claims were unlawful.

Fees will be repaid along with interest of 0.5% calculated from the date of the original payment until the refund date.  The refunds will be dealt with in phases.  Up to around 1,000 people will now be contacted individually and given the chance to complete applications before the full scheme is opened up in the coming weeks. There is an option to pre-register refund claims before then by email or post. 

Full details of the scheme are not yet available but will be announced in the next four weeks. However, while not stated in the announcement, we are reliably informed that the key details of the scheme will be:

  • It will cover EAT fees as well as employment tribunal fees.
  • It will be open to both claimants and respondents who paid fees.
  • It will also be open to respondents who had to pay a claimant a costs order in respect of the claimant's tribunal or EAT fees. In this case, the respondent will have to evidence that a costs order was made and paid.
  • It will not be open to respondents who compensated a claimant for their tribunal fees under a settlement agreement. However it is not yet clear if the employee, having received reimbursement of a fee through a settlement agreement, can still claim back the fee, effectively getting double recovery. 
  • Applicants under the scheme will have to sign a declaration confirming their entitlement. This will include declaring that the applicant did not receive a costs award covering their tribunal fees.

What about employees who were unable to bring claims?

If an employee's claim was rejected or dismissed for non-payment of a fee (or failure to apply for remission), we understand that affected claimants will be contacted and asked whether they wish their claim to be reinstated.

What if an employee was deterred from bringing a claim because of the high fees?  Can they now bring a claim out of time?  We understand that this will not be dealt with under the scheme and that the tribunals will deal with this under normal judicial principles for out of time claims.

How much will all this cost the government?

In a written answer to a parliamentary question, the government estimated the total cost of refunding tribunal fees paid since they were introduced at £33 million including interest.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.