A recent review of employment tribunal fees system by the Ministry of Justice has found that the introduction of fees has “broadly met its objectives” despite on-going concerns about decreased access to justice and they have no plans to scrap the scheme.
The Review of The Introduction of Fees in The Employment Tribunals was largely positive about the changes which were made in 2013.
People who use the employment tribunal are now contributing between £8.5m and £9m in fees transferring a proportion of the cost from the taxpayer to those who are using the tribunal.
The review found that since the introduction of employment tribunal fees there has been a fall in the number of employment tribunal claims and a high number of people using the ACAS free conciliation service.
Mandatory ACAS Early Conciliation was introduced in May 2014. The review states that more people using the ACAS service is in line with the objective of resolving more workplace disputes without going to the tribunal.
However, the review has failed to acknowledge any reduction in access to justice brought about by the introduction of fees.
The government accepts that up to 8,000 people who, after failing to resolve their workplace dispute through the free conciliation process, said they didn’t take their case to the employment tribunal because they couldn’t afford it. Yet the Ministry of Justice review said that there was nothing to suggest these people have been prevented from taking their claim to the tribunal – denying any barrier to justice as a result of the fee imposition.
The review did highlight the need to improve their ‘help with fees’ facility, citing a lack of awareness of the fee remission scheme. People had found the procedure hard to follow and the Ministry of Justice is now aiming to widen access to the ‘help with fees’ scheme.
The findings of the government’s review will be put to the test in March when the Supreme Court hears the judicial review challenge to the fees regime brought by the trade union UNISON.
For more information see our blog: Why do People Make Employment Tribunal Claims?
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Harriet Bowtell is a senior employment solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in central London.