Legal experts and union leaders have called for a review of the Employment Tribunal process following the release of new Ministry of Justice figures.
The number of single Employment Tribunal claims has fallen by 70 percent in the year since July 2013, when fees for raising a Tribunal claim were first introduced.
“This is the third successive round of statistics showing the number of claims to the employment tribunal being very significantly down on where they were before the Fees Order came into force a year ago” Richard Fox, head of employment law at Kingsley Napley, told the CIPD.
“We really have reached the situation where many voices are coming together to say something must be done.”
Chief among those voices is the TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady, who was vociferous in her condemnation of the new tribunal process.
“The fees system is a victory for Britain’s bad bosses who are getting away with harassment and abuse of workers.”
“Tribunal fees are pricing workers out of justice and have created a barrier to basic rights at work. The government has put Britain in a race to the bottom that is creating an economy based on zero-hour jobs and zero-rights for workers.”
Depending on the case it costs either £160 or £250 to raise a claim against an employer; and then a further £230 or £950 if that claim goes to hearing, meaning that in the worst case scenario a disgruntled employee may have to pay £1200 for a case they are by no means guaranteed to win. The Fees Order was criticised at inception as being a means of pricing people out of justice, and the Ministry of Justice’s report will do little to dispel that view.
“These figures come as no surprise and reflect a downwards trend in employment tribunal numbers” Fergal Dowling, partner at law firm Irwin Mitchell, told Personnel Today.
“Many will attribute the fall to the introduction of early conciliation in April, but Unison, which is currently involved in a legal challenge about the impact on fees, will no doubt believe it adds weight to its argument that fees indirectly discriminate against protected groups and are unlawful.
“Recent calls for the scrapping of employment tribunal fees need to be balanced by the needs of the business, but we believe the time is right to review the systems and ensure it is operating in a fair way for all.”
Unison is challenging the introduction of fees in the Court of Appeal this week.