The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has now published its long awaited review of employment tribunal fees. The report concludes that whilst the introduction of fees may have discouraged individuals from bringing employment claims, it has not prevented them from doing so. The report also concludes that there was no disproportionate impact on pregnancy and maternity-related claims, as the fall in these types of claim were lower compared with the overall fall in complaints.
Employment tribunal fees were first introduced in July 2013. In the subsequent year the total number of single claims submitted fell by 66% and have subsequently remained at a similar rate ever since. This has led to some criticising the accessibility of the tribunal system including President of the Law Society, Robert Bourns, who following the publication of the report stated “The minister asserts there is ‘no evidence to suggest’ the fees are limiting access to justice – but the evidence in his own report suggests that tens of thousands of people are slipping through the cracks”.
Extension of fee remission
The MoJ’s report does highlight “some matters of concern that cannot be ignored” and “the Government has decided to take action to address these concerns.” This is planned to be done through an extension of the fees remission scheme, which is set out in detail in the consultation document. Consultation on the fee remission proposals closes on the 13th of March 2017.
The MoJ’s proposals include increasing the monthly income threshold for individuals to qualify for fee remission from £1,085 to £1,250 – which is roughly the equivalent of full-time employment earnings on the National Living Wage. The MoJ also announced an immediate exemption from fees for proceedings for recovery from the National Insurance Fund.
Supreme Court Appeal
UNISON’s appeal to the Supreme Court against the introduction of employment tribunal fees will be heard at the end of March 2017 and it remains to be seen what the outcome will be. The union has previously stated that ‘the government’s decision to demand a fee from anyone taking their employer to court was ill-judged, has failed to save the taxpayer money, and prevented thousands of badly treated workers from getting justice’.
Employment Judgements go online
In addition to releasing its review, the MoJ has also launched a website of employment tribunal judgements. Approximately 100 decisions from 2016 are already published on the site. You can access the website by clicking here.