A recent Government review of the fees for bringing proceedings in the Employment Tribunal has recently been released and it has prompted a backlash from those who campaign for access to justice.
The review, Review of the introduction of fees in the employment tribunals: consultation on proposals for reform, CM 9373, consulted on employment tribunal fees and the impact that the introduction of these fees has had.
The paper does not accept that the fees have had a negative effect on the access to justice for many people – instead, arguing that people are accessing different services and attempting to find alternative solutions to their issues. The fee for bringing an unfair dismissal case is £250. A further fee of £950 is required if the case continues to a hearing.
A report published by the joint committee on human rights, Human Rights and Business 2017, stressed the need for employment tribunal fees to be reduced. This report claims that Tribunal fees were “a barrier” for claimants and that claimants often find that they cannot afford legal fees.
Cases brought before the Employment Tribunal after the introduction of fees in July 2013 dropped by between 65% and 70%. In the year before the Employment Tribunal fees were introduced, 195, 570 claims were made to the Employment Tribunal. In 2015/2016, it was reported that 92,000 cases were referred to the conciliation service ACAS. This was an increase of 9000 on the year before, but it is still 100,000 lower than the amount of cases that were taken to the Employment Tribunal before the introduction of fees.
The review explores the possibility of the fee threshold being amended to reflect the national living wage. The review explores raising the cap on monthly earnings of an individual with no children to £1250. If an individual with no children is earning less than this then that individual will not have to pay fees.
A discrimination or unfair dismissal case that goes to hearing will cost a claimant £1200 in hearing fees. For those that fall under the JAM (Just About Managing) category, this is still a lot of money when balanced with living costs and bills.
The concern surrounding the introduction of fees to bring cases to the Employment Tribunal revolves around fair access to justice. It is a primary concern that claimants are settling their cases outside of the Employment Tribunal for far less than what they could be settled for, or what they could be entitled to. Employees are also using Employment Tribunal fees as a method of putting pressure on employees – employees and employers know that if an employer remains unresponsive during a grievance then the potential for an Employment Tribunal can be unrealistic for claimants. The conclusion is that fees have provided a hurdle to justice.