The Government has pressed ahead with plans to charge people to bring a claim to an employment tribunal, suggesting fees of between £150 and £1,750.
Justice minister Jonathan Djanogly said fees would discourage "unmerited and unnecessary" claims and relieve pressure on taxpayers, who footed an £84 million bill last year for running tribunals.
Business groups welcomed the announcement, but unions warned that the poorest workers would be denied justice.
A consultation was announced on two options - an initial fee of between £150 and £250, with an additional charge of between £250 and £1,250 if a claim goes to a hearing, with no limit to the maximum award, or a fee of £200-£600 which could rise to £1,750 for people seeking awards over £30,000.
Mr Djanogly said: "Currently, the UK taxpayer bears the entire £84 million cost per year of resolving other people's employment disputes at tribunals. This is not sustainable.
"We believe that people should pay a fair amount towards the cost of their case. Fee waivers will be available for people on low incomes to protect access to justice.
"Our proposed fees will encourage businesses and workers to settle problems earlier, through non-tribunal routes like conciliation or mediation, and we want to give businesses - particularly small businesses - the confidence to create new jobs without fear of being dragged into unnecessary actions."
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Employment tribunals are a key way of enabling workers to enforce their rights. Government proposals to introduce a fee to lodge an initial claim - and then possibly a further charge for a full hearing - will effectively prevent the poorest and most vulnerable workers from ever being able to get justice.
"It is completely unacceptable that a worker on the minimum wage, who has been underpaid and denied holiday pay, may now have to pay a fee of £250 or more to claim back what they are entitled to because their employer flouted the law.
"Because the fees will be paid upfront and only refunded if a claim succeeds, the poorest workers and those without union backing will struggle to pay these costs."
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