Repaying fees to employment tribunal claimants will continue for up to two years and cost the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) between £1.8m and £2m to administer, it has emerged.
Dominic Raab, minister of state at the MoJ, told MPs on the justice select committee yesterday that over £1.8m of a total of £33m had been refunded to 2,150 claimants since the repayment scheme was launched in mid-November.
Mr Raab, a former City solicitor, said the government would not “shrink or shy away from [the] stark findings” of the Supreme Court on access to justice.
“We will make sure they are taken fully on board both for employment tribunal policy and more broadly.”
The Supreme Court ruled in July that the employment tribunal fee regime was unlawful. The tribunals immediately stopped charging fees and the MoJ announced details of its £33m repayment scheme in October.
Mr Raab went on: “We want to make sure that we are grounding our policy regarding tribunal fees and more generally in our fees policy in what the Supreme Court said. It’s quite a rich judgment.”
He said the MoJ would look at the evidence base for tribunal fees and the remission scheme, bearing in mind the need for access to justice, not allowing spurious claims to come forward and encouraging ADR.
However, Mr Raab said that in the last financial year only 13% of the costs of employment tribunals were funded by fees, compared to 39% for the courts and tribunal service generally.
“The balance between what the taxpayer funds and the user pays is quite a delicate one. It’s obviously quite a difficult one because we won in the High Court and the Court of Appeal.”
Mr Raab declined to give an estimate of the MoJ’s legal costs following its defeat in the Supreme Court, but said he would inform MPs in writing.
Asked by Labour MP David Hanson why the government had not commissioned an impact assessment before launching its doomed tribunal fee scheme, Mr Raab said he was not the minister responsible at the time.
Responding to a question from Labour MP Ellie Reeves, Mr Raab said he was “confident” that potential employment claimants put off by tribunal fees would be able to bring their claims out of time and a process had been set up to deal with it.
He ruled out the idea of the MoJ paying compensation to potential claimants who did not bring claims for ‘loss of chance’, because of the difficulty in assessing what losses they may have suffered.
“What we have certainly done is made sure that claims can be brought out of time and employment tribunals are comfortable with that.”
Mr Raab said the government had not set a deadline for introducing a revised fee scheme. “It’s not a question of kicking it into the long grass, it’s a question of getting it right.”