Employment Tribunal fees scrapped as access to justice prevails
In July 2013 cases sent to the Employment tribunal peaked at a little over seven thousand. As of January this year the figure was nearer fifteen hundred. Ministry of Justice compiled statistics indicate that the total number of claims issued over the three year period immediately following the introduction of fees, in 2013, has dropped by 79%.
The government introduced these fees with the intention of sifting out the vexatious litigant, or the case with no hope whatsoever. However to suggest only one in five cases brought before the tribunal had any merit, or were genuine, is of course plainly not the case.
The fees were often as high as £1,200 – prohibitively expensive for the potential claimants most in need of the justice system’s help- and never less than £390. Practitioners and academics alike have almost unanimously condemned these fees; as they formed an imposing barrier for people often most in need of help. People tend to issue claims in the tribunal when they are at their most desperate – having lost their jobs, or been discriminated against or victimised. To think they would need to part way with £1,200 to have the opportunity to have their voice heard – this before they have even set foot in a lawyer’s office and been advised as to if this would be money well spent.
The Supreme Court decision also determined that as well as finding the fees unlawful per se, they were also indirectly discriminatory against women. This was based on an analysis of the statistics highlighting that a higher proportion of women issued proceedings in discrimination claims.
The government has confirmed that it is no longer accepting fees for claims (with immediate effect), and that it will be reimbursing the £32 million raised since 2013 – with the taxpayer picking up the bill.
We provide an initial thirty minute consultation free of charge – this means a potential claimant can decide on whether to issue a claim with their eyes wide open, and having not yet had to spend any money. Litigation is a commitment for the claimant – it is this writer’s view that people will generally only embark upon it where they genuinely think there is a right to be wronged. Therefore the decision of the Supreme Court and the government’s immediate and very public decision to accept it, can only be a good thing for employees, and consequently for justice itself.
If you would like advice on employment matters please contact Chris Kingham on 01323 720142.