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Employment tribunal fees will be introduced across the UK today amidst criticism from both employer groups and unions. Under the new UK rules, employees will have to pay £160 or £250 to lodge a claim, with a further charge of either £230 or £950 if the case goes ahead. The higher charges will cover more serious cases such as unfair dismissal while the lower fees will cover more minor issues such as unpaid invoices.
Trade unions say the move, which ministers claim will save money for businesses and taxpayers, is the latest attack on workers' fundamental rights. The Unite Union estimated that these changes would affect 150,000 workers a year and pledged to pay the employment tribunal costs of its members.
Len McCluskey, leader of the Unite Union, said that "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."
The government defended the fees, saying the change would remove the burden of speculative cases from businesses and taxpayers.
"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,” said the justice minister Helen Grant MP.
"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 government says waivers are available for those who cannot afford the fees, and anyone who pays and goes on to win their case can apply to the judge to have their fees paid by the other side.