The Ministry of Justice has at long last released its review of the introduction of fees in the Employment Tribunal.
In 2013 fees were introduced in the Employment Tribunal, meaning that if someone sought to make, for example, a claim of unfair dismissal against their former employer they may have to pay up to £1,250 to the Employment Tribunal for the pleasure.
Statistics have shown that there has been a significant drop off in the number of cases being presented at Employment Tribunal and some sources estimate this fall as being as much as 80%. A Judicial Review is still ongoing to query the legality of the introduction of fees but in the meantime the Government has performed its own review.
Results of the review
The review has acknowledged that the fall in claims has been significantly greater than was estimated when fees were first introduced. There is also an acknowledgement that people have been discouraged from making claims, but the review asserts that there is no conclusive evidence that individuals have been prevented from making claims. This is an important distinction.
The review points to the significant number of people using ACAS early conciliation as evidence that employment disputes are being resolved by other means. Although the Government accepted that there was a group of between 3,000 and 8,000 people who did not resolve their dispute through ACAS but did not bring a claim, the Government could not conclude that these individuals could not afford to pay.
The Government's position is that it will take steps to increase the amount of individuals who qualify for "remission". This is a system whereby the fees are waived for those on low income. The system has been criticised for being difficult to use. Accordingly steps will be taken to make the system easier to use.
What happens now with employment tribunal fees in Scotland
Notwithstanding the Government's conclusions as to the impact of fees, there will be a judicial review hearing before the Supreme Court on 27th and 28th March. At this hearing the Supreme Court will determine if the fee regime acts as a barrier to access to justice.
Until the hearing takes place Employment Tribunal fees are still with us, albeit the Government is considering steps to widen access to the fee remission scheme and the Scottish Government (to whom the Scottish tribunal system is now devolved) has expressed commitment to abolishing the fees.
It is welcome that the Government are considering the extension of the remission scheme but this system can be complex and does not provide comfort to those who have perhaps foregone their opportunity to raise a claim against their employer as a result of the fee regime.
The message for just now is very much watch this space and see how matters develop. However, anyone who, perhaps optimistically, hoped that the Government's own review of its decision would turn the clock back to the days of no fee access to the employment tribunal will be disappointed with the terms of yesterday's response.
Get in touch
If you would like to discuss an employment tribunal issue, please get in touch with a member of our employment law team.