Fee system not working
Labour & European Law Review Weekly Issue 442 21 October 2015
In their submission to the government’s review of employment tribunal fees, the Employment Tribunals (England & Wales) have concluded that they have not been successful in achieving the Government’s stated objectives.
In June 2015 the government announced a review of tribunal fees (introduced in July 2013) to find out whether they had achieved their supposed objectives. The goals were threefold - to transfer some of the costs from the taxpayer to tribunal users; encourage alternative ways of resolving disputes; and maintain access to justice (weekly LELR 424). The President and regional employment judges of the Employment Tribunals are unequivocal in their conclusion that these have not been achieved.
The submission points out that net income generated by fees does not cover the proportion of the running costs of the Employment Tribunal system set by the Coalition Government. Indeed, it says that the introduction of fees and the process of applying for remission have added to the time which it takes for a claim to progress to disposal. There has also been some satellite litigation created by the process.
They also point out that there is little evidence that the introduction of fees have had the effect of encouraging parties to seek alternative ways of resolving their disputes and that any increase in alternative dispute resolution is more likely to be the result of the introduction of mandatory early conciliation through Acas in 2014. Nor has the imposition of fees charged to employers improved the take-up of judicial mediation conducted by the Employment Tribunal System itself.
The President and regional judges also consider that the introduction of fees has had an adverse effect on access to justice. Although there has been a big reduction in new claims across all jurisdictions, they point out that employment judges now see very few short track cases (such as claims for unpaid wages). The obvious inference is that a combined fee of £390 is not proportionate to the relatively modest sums claimed. The standard track cases (typically unfair dismissal claims) attract a combined fee of £1,200 which does not compare well with the mean and median awards made in successful unfair dismissal complaints. As a result, they conclude that the fees and remission scheme acts as a very clear disincentive to bringing what might otherwise be claims that are not obviously weak or unmeritorious.
They therefore recommend that issue and hearing fees be reclassified and recalibrated, in order to encourage early conciliation and other alternative dispute resolution.
“Given the evidence in support of their submissions it is disappointing that the Employment Tribunals did not recommend a ban on fees altogether” said Jo Seery of Thompsons Solicitors.
To read the full submission, go to: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/justice-committee/court-fees-and-charges/written/21888.html