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Employment tribunals - how to apply for help with fees

Warning

Before you can start an employment tribunal claim, the law requires you to go through a process called Acas early conciliation. You must start early conciliation within strict time limits, which is usually within 3 months minus 1 day of the event that your claim is about.

If early conciliation doesn’t lead to an agreement with your employer, your time limits for making your claim to the tribunal after early conciliation has ended are extended. The rules about how time limits are extended are complex - you will always have one month after early conciliation has ended to make your claim, but sometimes you will have more than one month. See Early conciliation - how it affects the time limit for making a claim.

When you make a claim to an employment tribunal, you have to pay 2 fees:

  1. an issue fee when you start the claim
  2. a hearing fee before your claim's final hearing

Get help with employment tribunal fees

You can apply to get help with employment tribunal fees if you get certain benefits or you’re on a low income. Before you apply, you should check if you can get help with fees.

You have to make a separate application for each fee.

You can apply for help with employment tribunal fees using either:

If you've only been getting a benefit for a few days, send a copy of a letter from the jobcentre that shows you get the benefit with your application. This is because the tribunal will usually check your answer with the Department for Work and Pensions. If you've only just started getting a benefit they may not be able to do this.  

If you use the ‘help with fees’ online service

When you’ve answered the questions, you’ll get a reference number. You must send the reference number to the employment tribunal, along with your employment tribunal claim number.

You’ll also get:

  • some sample text, which you can copy into an email or letter
  • details of where to send your email or letter

Your application isn’t fully complete until you’ve sent the 2 reference numbers.

If you use the ‘help with fees’ form

You can either:

  • print the form, then fill it in by hand
  • fill in the form online and print it afterwards (though you'll still need to sign it by hand)

It's a good idea to make copies of the form and any supporting documents before you send them, and use registered post.

Post your form and any supporting documents to:

Employment Tribunal Central Office (England and Wales)
PO Box 10218
Leicester
LE1 8EQ

After you send the form, the tribunal might contact you to ask for more information about your savings, benefits or income. This means it's worth getting together any documents you have that prove what you've said in the form - for example, payslips, bank statements, or letters from the jobcentre. However, you don't need to send any of these unless the tribunal asks for them. 

If the tribunal finds out that any information you've supplied is wrong or you can't give any extra information they ask for, they can:

  • ask you to pay the full fee
  • reject the claim if you don't pay the fee before the tribunal hearing

You won't have to pay the tribunal fee if your claim is rejected.

What happens when the tribunal receives your application

Your application should be processed within 5 working days of when it's received, although emergency applications can be processed sooner.

If you qualify for help with the full fee

If you qualify for help with the full fee and don't have to pay any fees at all, the tribunal will process the papers for your claim.

If you qualify for help with part of the fee

If you will have to pay some of the fee, the tribunal will write to you telling you how much you owe and how to pay it. The letter will tell you when the payment is due, usually within 7 days of receiving the letter. Your claim won’t be processed until you've made the payment.

If you're refused help with the fee

If your application for help with fees is refused, the tribunal officer will return your application form with a letter explaining the decision. If you don't agree with this decision you can appeal against it.

How to appeal against a decision

If your request for help with fees is refused, you can write to the 'delivery manager' at the central office saying why you aren't happy with the decision. Send any supporting evidence you already have. If you can, try to get further evidence that will support your claim.

The letter refusing your application will tell you when you have to respond by. It's usually around 14 days from when you get the letter.

The delivery manager at the central office will look at the decision again and let you know the outcome within 5 working days of receiving your appeal.

If the appeal decision is to give you help with the full fee, your tribunal claim will be processed.

If the decision is to give you help with part of the fee, you will be told how much you'll have to pay before your claim can be processed.

If your appeal is refused, you will get a letter explaining why. You can then appeal once more, this time to the 'operations manager' at the central office. Their details will be in your decision letter, as will the date you have to appeal by. You will need to follow the same process as for appealing to the delivery manager.

The operations manager's decision is final and you won't be able to appeal again.

If you think you shouldn't have paid the fee

It may be possible to get a refund of the fee if you later find out that you should have qualified for help with fees. To get a refund you must:

  • claim within 6 months of paying the fee
  • claim to the tribunal office where you made the payment
  • provide evidence you paid the fee, usually a tribunal receipt
  • provide evidence of why you think that you qualify for help with fees. Benefit letters and other evidence must be dated when you paid the fee, not when you apply for the refund.

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