04 September 2015 #Employment
The Scottish government has announced this week plans to scrap employment tribunal fees north of the border, using new powers included in the Scotland Bill.
The announcement was included in the 2015-16 Programme for Government, entitled “A Stronger Scotland. Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon plans to “abolish fees for employment tribunals – ensuring that employees have a fair opportunity to have their case heard”.
The statement said: “We will abolish fees for employment tribunals, when we are clear on how the transfer of powers and responsibilities will work. We will consult on the shape of services that can best support people’s access to employment justice as part of the transfer of the powers for employment tribunals to Scotland.”
Last week, the Court of Appeal rejected UNISON’s appeal seeking to overturn the fee system on the grounds that it disadvantages women and ethnic minorities. The Court commented, however, that ability to pay fees should be considered in the UK government’s review of the system, which is due by the end of the year.
If employment tribunal fees in Scotland are abolished, creating a fundamental difference between Scotland and England and Wales in the enforcement of employment rights, it will raise some interesting issues, particularly for business operating in different part of the UK. Fees have not been introduced in employment tribunals in Northern Ireland, with no plans to do so, hence there is a difference there already.
The introduction of fees has led to a very large drop in the number of employment tribunal claims.
The issue could affect a business decision as to where to locate or create jobs. There may, as the rules on jurisdiction stand, be issues as to whether claims are brought in Scotland or in England and Wales. Current rules allow claims to be brought before employment tribunals in Scotland if the employer "resides or carries on business in Scotland", or if "one or more of the acts or omissions complained of took place in Scotland", among other qualifications. It seems that the rules would allow an individual to raise a claim against an employer that is headquartered in Scotland, even if the individual is based elsewhere in the UK.