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Employment tribunals - how to apply for help with fees
Before you can make a claim to an Employment Tribunal, you will have to either pay a fee or apply to have the fee waived because you are receiving certain benefits or are on a low income. This is called 'Help with fees'. There is a further fee if there's a tribunal hearing and you can also apply to get help with this fee.
This page tells you more about how to apply for help with fees.
Working out whether you qualify for help with fees
If you make a claim, you'll have to pay an issue fee when you start the claim and a hearing fee before your claim's final hearing. If you think you qualify for help with fees, you'll have to make a separate application for each fee.
If you're not sure whether you qualify for help with fees, you can fill out a 'Help with fees' application form. Or you can use our guide to help with paying the claim fee.
Help with fees in exceptional circumstances
You may be able to get help if something happens which seriously affects your ability to pay the fee. Exceptional circumstances include:
- where paying your fee would mean you couldn't afford to pay overdue rent or mortgage payments, which could lead to you being made homeless.
- threatened legal action because of unpaid bills
- uninsured losses you've suffered because of fire, flood, theft or criminal damage.
If you have a financial emergency, write to the Employment Tribunal Central Office explaining what's happened. They will decide whether to give you help with fees on a case-by-case basis.
Applying for help with fees
Before you can start your employment tribunal claim you must go through the Acas early conciliation service. This gives you a chance to resolve your dispute without the need for a formal claim tribunal hearing.
You must contact Acas about early conciliation within strict time limits, usually within 3 months of the event you are complaining about. For example, if you are complaining about unfair dismissal you must contact Acas within 3 months of the date you were dismissed. For more information about early conciliation, see Early conciliation - how it works.
After early conciliation you can start your employment tribunal claim. There is a strict time limit for this, too - usually 3 months after the event you are making the claim about. In that time you must start your claim and either pay your initial fee or apply for help with your fees.
This time limit is extended if you've been through the Acas early conciliation service. For more information on extending the time limit, see Early conciliation - how it affects the time limit for making a claim.
After you send the form, the tribunal may 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, or
- 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.
If you've started getting a benefit in the past few days
Question 9 on the form asks you about benefits you might get. If you've only been getting a benefit for a few days, send a letter from the jobcentre with your form, showing that you get the benefit.
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.
Where to send the help with fees form
You can either print the help with fees form and fill it in by hand, or fill it in online and print the form afterwards (though you'll still need to sign it by hand). Make photocopies of all 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
What happens when the tribunal receives your form
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.