The House of Commons library last week published a briefing note looking at the impact of the introduction of fees for tribunal claims, introduced in July 2013.
The most obvious - and immediate - impact was the steep drop in the number of cases received. Between October 2013 and September 2014, tribunals received 32,671 fewer single claim cases (brought by individuals) compared to the previous year. This represented a decrease of 64 per cent. The number of multiple claim cases (brought by two or more people usually against a common employer) was down 3,527, a decrease of 67 per cent.
Single or multiple claims can be brought under one or more different jurisdictions. For example, a claim for unfair dismissal is brought under one jurisdiction and a claim for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination is brought under two separate jurisdictions. The briefing note shows that there was a drop of 77 per cent in the total number of claims across all jurisdictions accepted in the period between the period October 2012 and September 2013 and the period October 2013 and September 2014.
Although the government justified the introduction of fees by arguing that the remission system would mean that individuals would not be deterred from bringing claims, the briefing note records that fee remission was awarded in less than 4,000 claims between July 2013 and 2014, compared to a total of 52,442 claims received between August 2013 and June 2014. It has been suggested elsewhere that the actual number of claimants awarded remission is smaller than this figure as remissions for the issue fee and the hearing fee are counted separately.
The government also justified the introduction of fees on the basis that they would “reduce the taxpayer subsidy … while protecting access to justice for all”. In 2013 to 2014, HM Courts and Tribunals Service spent £76.4 million on employment tribunal business - of this amount, £4.5 million was recouped in net income from fees over the eight month period 29 July 2013 to 31 March 2014 – around 6 per cent of total expenditure. The value of fee income foregone via remission was £680,000.
Although the government has committed to reviewing the impact of the introduction of tribunal fees, it has so far failed to indicate when it might take place.
Neil Todd from Thompsons Solicitors commented: “The introduction of fees has prevented working people from accessing the Tribunal system in order to seek redress when they are mistreated at work. If this was the government’s aim, and I strongly suspect it was - notwithstanding the flimsy rhetoric to the contrary - then it has succeeded. It is hardly a legacy of which to be proud. I sincerely hope for the election of a Labour government in May to repeal this injustice.”
To review the riding note in full, go to: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/research/briefing-papers/SN07081/employment-tribunal-fees