I doubt there are many of us who can remember the birth of the Employment Tribunals although if your memory stretches back to 1998, you may recall that they used to be called Industrial Tribunals. The principle behind the old Industrial Tribunals was that it allowed individuals to pursue disputes against their employers in a fairly informal setting, free of the shackles of lawyers sat behind desks piled high with statute books and multiple bundles of documents. As a fledgling employment lawyer, I sat through the partners regaling me with tales of the good old days, arguments over the table with union reps and taking witness statements in the old red phone boxes (where would we be now without mobiles???!!!). And there was a lot to be said for justice that was (at least in comparison to the Civil Courts) quicker and less costly. Alas, for several years the Employment Tribunal system has been slowly squeezed by pressure from all directions. If it’s not the introduction of more legislation at the behest of Europe, it’s politicians attempting to drive down the number of claims by reviewing the system and the Tribunal’s rules and constitution. Which brings me nicely onto the latest change in Tribunal procedure. And it’s a big one. 29 July 2013 is the day that, for the first time ever, a fee system is introduced into the Tribunal system. Bringing Tribunals into line with the Civil Courts, Claimants will be required to pay an issue fee depending on the type of claim. There will also be a further hearing fee. The aim of all this? Well, it may discourage some Claimants from bringing Claims if there is a financial risk that was not previously there. However, Claimants on low incomes (and bear in mind, they will usually be out of work at the time of a claim being made), may be exempt from paying the fees. The theory is that parties will make use of ACAS or arbitration before resorting to the Tribunal. In turn, Tribunal numbers will fall and everyone will be better off. Sounds straightforward doesn’t it? We shall see. Nick Wilson is responsible for the employment law service at Crooks Commercial Solicitors Limited, a specialist commercial law firm with experience in many sectors including recruitment. Contact Nick on 01924 669159, email at email@example.com or www.ccs-law.co.uk.