Since the changes in the timing of payment of fees there has been a significant drop in employment tribunal claims and this led to fierce criticism from opposition parties. With the General Election result in it seems fees are here to stay for at least another 5 years.
The aim of the changes was to reduce the number of frivolous employment claims and to help employers avoid costly legal fees handling grievances that could be dealt without the need to go to a tribunal or court.
However, the impact has gone much further than that and figures published by the Ministry of Justice in March 2015 indicate that there has been a drop of 70% in claims brought since the changes have been implemented, with a particular fall in the number of discrimination claims brought forward. This number dovetails what many of our employment solicitors have been telling us for months.
Opposition parties jumped on these statistics as proof that the 2010-2015 coalition Government was unsupportive of employees’ rights and was only on the side of businesses.
The Labour Party had been the most vocal in its opposition, pledging a thorough review of the current tribunal system if it had won the election.
What was confusing was that in Labour’s workplace manifesto they promised to “ensure proper access to justice in the workplace by abolishing the Government’s tribunal fee system”, but then said it would oversee a process led by the CBI and the TUC to “agree reforms” (so they might not have abolished the fees altogether anyway).
One development that still might have an impact is Unison’s appeal against the employment tribunal fees regime, which should occur in June. Its second claim for a judicial review was rejected in December 2014 but they have been granted a further appeal. As things currently stand the courts have decided that tribunal fees, when taken as a whole to include the option of certain claimants being able to apply for remission, is proportionate and here to stay.
Employers themselves are split as to whether or not the system should be left as it is. The CIPD report found that 36% thought fees should be significantly reduced or abolished, and a shade more (38%) felt it should be left as it is.
Whatever the court decision is claimants will still be seeking access to justice and Acasta Europe can help ease the financial burden of bringing a claim before a tribunal with our insurance products. Many employment solicitors we work with are taking advantage of our tribunal fee insurance and funding facility secure in the knowledge that we offer protection in unsuccessful claims for those initial tribunal fees, counsel’s fees, an expert report and even an adverse cost decision awarded against.
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