There will be two separate reviews of the Employment Tribunal fees regime this year. It has been confirmed that a cross-party select committee will assess whether or not the introduction of tribunal fees has decreased access to justice. The committee will consist of cross-party MPs.
In addition, the Ministry of Justice have decided a review is in order “to make recommendations for any changes to the structure and level of fees for proceedings in the Employment Tribunals and the Employment Appeals Tribunal, including recommendations for streamlining procedures to reduce costs.” The Ministry of Justice review will be carried out by the department’s civil servants.
It appears that the Ministry of Justice review will also look at alternative dispute resolution and the fee remission system. The terms of reference state that the review will additionally consider issues relating to access to justice.
It is widely recognised that the introduction of Employment Tribunal fees is considered to be a significant barrier in access to justice. A recent Trade Union Congress report found that since the introduction of fees, there has been a massive 79% decrease in the number of claims taken to Employment Tribunals. Many different types of employment disputes have seen a reduction in the number of people proceeding to an Employment Tribunal.
- Race discrimination claims fell by 60%.
- Sexual orientation discrimination claims fell by 60%.
- Pay issue claims such as holiday pay issues have fallen by 85%.
- Maternity discrimination claims have fallen by 26%.
- Sex discrimination claims made by women have dropped 80%.
Whether the two reviews will redress this balance and improve access to justice for UK workers remains to be seen.
Principal Employment Lawyer Kiran Daurka commented:
”We are pleased that there is finally a commitment to a review of the fee regime. It is clear that access to justice has been substantially affected by the fees. A recent analysis by the Equal Opportunities Review concluded that the number of awards in discrimination claims has barely changed since fees were introduced, but overall award amounts have increased.
“This tells us two things:
- Claims without merit have not been weeded out by the fees regime as the success rate of claims has remained largely the same;
- Higher earners are more likely to be progressing employment claims, with lower earners being prevented from pursuing claims because of fees. This is why the average award has increased.
“The Equal Opportunities Review report found that wider recommendations were made in 20 cases during 2014. From October 2015, Employment Tribunals will no longer have a statutory power to make such recommendations (i.e. recommendations affecting the wider workforce) in cases where an employer has lost a discrimination claim. It is disappointing that this power has been removed as it served to make a real difference to employment practices”.
To read more see our previous blog: Employment Tribunal fees still need a review.
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