Employment Tribunal fees have 'substantially damaged' access to justice - employment law implications

Over the course of the last British Parliament, the Westminster Government pursued policies aimed at decreasing the cost to the public of running the courts and tribunals. 

Employment Tribunal fees were introduced on 29 July 2013 and have since been the subject of much debate and review. The House of Commons Justice Committee has today published its report into court and tribunal fees, finding that access to justice has been substantially damaged following the introduction of employment tribunal fees and stating that urgent change is needed. Separate comments have been made regarding pregnancy and maternity discrimination. 

Employment Law Tribunal Fees Justice Employees Lawyer Scotland

It is important to note that this is not the Westminster Government’s post-implementation review of the impact of employment tribunal fees. The Justice Committees report has found it unacceptable that the Government has not reported the results of its review one year after it began and six months after it stated it would be completed.

The report published today is entirely separate to the proposals announced by the Scottish Government in ‘A Stronger Scotland: The Government’s Programme for Scotland 2015-16”.

The Scottish Government has stated that it intends to abolish employment tribunal fees ensuring that employees have a fair opportunity to have their case heard.

Key findings

The key findings of the Justice Committee’s report are as follows:

  • The introduction of issue fees and hearing fees for claimants in employment tribunals has led to a drop of almost 70% in the number of cases brought to the Employment Tribunal.
  • The government’s reliance on the figure of 83,000 cases dealt with at ACAS early conciliation to support its contention that access to justice has not been adversely affected by employment tribunal fees was, even on the most favourable construction, superficial.  In many cases the existence of fees raises a disincentive for employers to resolve disputes at an early stage.
  • The regime of employment tribunal fees has had a significant adverse impact on access to justice for meritorious claims.
  • • The binary Type A/Type B distinction should be replaced. The distinction does not relate to the complexity or length of cases which adds to further marginalise those people who have the need to use the Employment Tribunal service.
  • Disposable capital and monthly income thresholds for fee remission should be increased, and no more than one fee remission application should be required.
  • Special consideration should be given to the position of women alleging maternity or pregnancy discrimination, for whom, at the least, the time limit of three months for bringing a claim should be reviewed.
  • The overall quantum of fees charged for bringing cases to employment tribunals should be substantially reduced

The timing of the Justice Committee’s report may be somewhat unfortunate. It is doubtful that the report will gain much press coverage with the EU Referendum vote only three days away.

The findings of the report are however significant and should the government implement its findings may bring significant change for users of the employment tribunals across the UK.

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If you would like to find out more about how we could assist you in relation to employment tribunals, please get in touch with a member of our team.