Substantial Cut to Employment Tribunal Fees Recommended
The House of Commons Justice Committee has recently released their report into Court and Tribunal fees which concludes that the current level of fees has had a ‘significant adverse effect’ on access to justice and recommends that the level of fees should be substantially reduced.
Employment Tribunal fees were introduced in July 2013 so that an initial fee of £250 is payable to start an unfair dismissal claim and a further fee of £950 if the matter proceeds to a final hearing. They were introduced in an effort to cut costs and also reduce the number of unmeritorious claims being brought, which many employers were forced to settle because it was more cost effective than defending them.
However, since fees were introduced the volume of claims being brought has reduced by approximately 70% - before their introduction there were, on average, 13,500 individual claims submitted per quarter with just 4,400 submitted per quarter since. The report concludes that there is no doubt that many employees have been deterred and indeed prevented from bringing Employment Tribunal claims as a result of being unable to afford to pay the total fee of £1,200.
The report stresses that the Justice Committee is not adverse to the principle of charging individuals a fee to use the Tribunal system. They consider that a degree of financial risk is important for those contemplating legal action, but it is the level of the fees themselves that is causing concern.
The conclusion of the report is that access to justice must prevail over generating income for the government. A full response to the report from the Ministry of Justice is expected in September 2016.