Anyone who paid an employment tribunal fee can now apply for a refund with millions of pounds set to be repaid to claimants and in some cases, to employers too.
The move follows a four week pilot scheme during which 1,000 claimants were contacted directly by the government and encouraged to apply.
It has now been fully opened up to anyone charged tribunal fees between July 2013, when they were introduced, and July 2017, when they were ruled unlawful.
As many as 10,000 claims could be eligible, at a total cost of more than £30 million to the government. This includes claims from employers ordered to pay the tribunal fees of someone who brought a claim against them, as long as they can prove they paid it.
Tribunal fees were introduced by the coalition government, starting at around £160 for issuing a claim for lost wages or breach of contract and increasing if the case was heard by a tribunal.
More serious claims, including unfair dismissal, came with a fee of £250 plus a hearing fee of £950 meaning some people had to pay £1,200 to see a claim through to its conclusion with appeals against decisions costing a further combined sum of £1,600.
Not surprisingly, a government report found that there had been a 70 per cent drop in the number of cases brought since 2013 with the fees acting as a deterrent to some claimants, a factor some commentators say favoured employers.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled that tribunal fees were obstructing access to justice, were indirectly discriminatory to women and were incompatible with aspects of EU law. Tribunals immediately stopped accepting fees and the government committed to refunding fees that had been paid.
Refunds: How do you apply?
You can apply online or by post or email using one of the forms listed below. Those who are successful will have the fees refunded to their bank account with 0.05 per cent interest added.
So that’s the end of tribunal fees, then?
Well, not necessarily. The Supreme Court judgement said that fees could in principle be justified as a means of ‘securing access to justice’.
And at a recent justice select committee meeting, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, David Lidington, said that the government did still intend to charge a fee but it needed to be careful tribunals were still accessible and affordable.