According to a recent parliamentary answer the government has spent a staggering £4.4 million on IT systems to support the processing of tribunal fee receipts and remission applications (or waivers) available for those who cannot afford to pay.
The same answer revealed that a total of 2,500 paper applications for fee remission had been received from individuals or groups of individuals for the period 29 July to 31 December 2013, in respect of an employment tribunal fee levied. Of those, 600 were granted.
As a result of new rules introduced in July last year, claimants have to pay a fee to issue a complaint in the employment tribunal or to lodge an appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal. These range from £160 to lodge a claim for unpaid wages to £250 to lodge a claim of discrimination. A further fee has to be paid to have the claim heard which can vary from between £230 for a claim for unpaid wages to £950 for a discrimination claim. This gives a total cost of £1,200 to pursue a claim for discrimination.
According to figures published by the government earlier this year (see LELR 361), the number of tribunal claims received in October to December 2013 were down by 79 per cent compared to the same period in 2012 and 75 per cent fewer than the previous quarter.
The number of claims received in the period from October to December 2013 was just 9,801 compared to an average of 50,000 new claims per quarter in 2012/13. The number of single cases lodged in July 2013 fell from nearly 7,000 to 1,000 cases in September 2013.
So the news that Unison has been granted permission to appeal the High Court’s decision refusing its judicial review application over tribunal fees could hardly be more timely (see LELR 356). The Court of Appeal last week held that the basis of the issue was of “sufficient general importance to merit permission to appeal”.
Unison had argued before the High Court that the introduction of fees would deny access to justice for workers treated unfairly by employers and would therefore be unlawful, and that introduction of fees has a disproportionate impact on women.
Although the court found against the union because it was too early to gauge the impact of fees, it said it had a “strong suspicion” that there will be a disparate impact on those who bring claims which require the higher fee to be paid.
Emma Game of Thompsons said: “We have seen that the impact of the fee system is having the desired effect in terms of deterring individuals to pursue Tribunal claims. It is therefore good news that Unison have been granted permission to appeal and that there will be further consideration of the fee system.”