Unions and workers’ rights organisations in the UK are vehemently opposing the government’s plans to reintroduce fees for employment tribunals, warning that such a move could foster worker exploitation.

A coalition of 48 entities, including prominent names like the TUC, Citizens Advice, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Fawcett Society, and Maternity Action, has expressed concerns that the reinstatement of fees, discarded in 2017, may empower unscrupulous employers.

The government, having previously faced legal challenges, abandoned its fee regime in 2017 when the supreme court ruled it obstructed access to justice, violating both UK and EU law.

The charges, ranging from £390 to £1,200 depending on the case, led to a nearly 70 percent reduction in cases brought forward by individuals after their introduction in 2013 by the then Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling.

In a joint statement, the workers’ rights groups argue that the proposed fees, starting from £55 to initiate a claim, could discourage many from pursuing legitimate claims, granting an advantage to employers with questionable practices. They emphasised, “Bad employers are being given the go-ahead to undercut good ones, safe in the knowledge they are less likely to face claims in the employment tribunal… Employment rights are only real if they are enforced.”

A financial barrier

Despite the government’s assurance that the new fees are designed to be proportionate and affordable, the groups contend that the initial fee, covering a claim for multiple individuals, coupled with an additional £55 appeal fee per judgment, decision, direction, or order appealed against, could still pose a financial barrier. Complex cases, such as the prolonged dispute over employment status involving Uber drivers, could accumulate substantial costs for claimants over multiple appeals.

Last month, the government announced a consultation on reinstating fees, arguing that the proposed costs were low enough to enable workers to pursue low-value claims. It also pledged assistance for those unable to afford the fees and highlighted exemptions for individuals claiming their rights related to the national insurance fund, such as pension contributions or redundancy payments in cases of employer insolvency.

The government maintains that lessons learned from the 2017 experience have been considered, and the new fees will be proportionate and affordable in line with the supreme court’s judgment. The consultation period extends until March 25. The government estimates that the fees could generate up to £1.7 million annually from 2025, with last year’s employment tribunal operation costs reaching £80 million.

Paul Nowak, the general secretary of the TUC, emphasised the importance of ensuring that working people have the ability to enforce their rights. The debate surrounding the reintroduction of employment tribunal fees is expected to intensify as stakeholders engage in the ongoing consultation process.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.