Long-Awaited Government Review of Employment Tribunal Fees Published
In July 2013, fees of up to £1,200 to bring claims in the Employment Tribunal were introduced. This had the effect of dramatically reducing the volume of claims being pursued by an average of 70%. Whereas previously an average of 13,500 claims were brought per quarter, now the average is just 4,400 per quarter.
It is thought that this marked reduction is seriously impacting on access to justice because many are unable to afford the £1,200 to pursue their claims. Unison, the trade union, brought a claim against the government for the fees to be scrapped for exactly this reason, but have so far been unsuccessful in orchestrating their repeal.
Following such criticism, in June 2015 the government launched a review into Tribunal fees. The Justice Select Committee also started their own review which recommended that fees should be reduced.
The Government report was finally published in February 2017, some 18 months later, and acknowledges that the fall in claims had been ’significantly greater’ than originally estimated. However, instead of abolishing or reducing fees, it is instead proposed to broaden the scope of the ‘help with fees’ system which provides an exemption from fees for users of the Tribunal with lower incomes to include those in receipt of the national living wage.
The Justice Minister has commented that it is ’right that those who could afford to should contribute to the cost of Employment Tribunals’ and latest figures show that users now contribute between £8.5million and £9million each year to the running costs of the Employment Tribunal. Undoubtedly the introduction of fees has succeeded in its aim to reduce the volume of claims but concerns remain as to the price that is being paid as a result.