Employment Tribunal fees were introduced on 29 July 2013. It was intended that fees would:

  1. Transfer the cost of litigation away from the tax payer and to those who can afford to pay
  2. Encourage alternative forms of dispute resolution
  3. Maintain access to justice

But what is the real impact of their introduction?

The most notable problem, and the basis of Unison’s current Supreme Court challenge, is that everyone now has to pay to enforce their employment rights (unless you are eligible for fee remission), and due to the level of the fees, prospective Claimants are put off pursuing Tribunal clams. Sadly it seems that too many cannot afford to pay, contrary to what the first objective suggests. It also appears that those who are most vulnerable, such as those in low paid work or pregnant women, for example, are disproportionately affected.

The proof that this deters both meritorious and unmeritorious claims is clear from the statistics. These show an almost 70% drop in clams being submitted, but do not show a substantial increase in successful claims which we would expect to see if only weak claims were being deterred.

Whilst ACAS Early Conciliation may account in part for the reduction in Claims, it cannot explain such a sharp drop in the figures. In fact, an ACAS Survey during the period April 2014 – December 2014 found that 26% of those who did not progress their Claim, chose not to do so because of Tribunal fees. In addition, it would seem that employers may be reluctant to settle claims using ACAS Early Conciliation, choosing to see whether Claimants would in fact pay the fees, thus undermining the second objective.

A recent report by the House of Commons Justice Committee reiterates these findings, and has been critical of the Government’s delay in publishing its own report into the impact of Tribunal fees. It firmly concludes that access to justice is being affected by the introduction and level of Tribunal fees. The true cost it seems is more than just financial.

Here at Beecham Peacock we advise on a range of employment law issues and are experienced in employment tribunal advocacy. For further information call us on 0191 232 3048 or email enquire@beechampeacock.co.uk.

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