Employment tribunal claims slump as fees bite hard

JusticeThe introduction of employment tribunal fees is biting hard according to the government statistics. The statistics cover October to December 2013 and show that workers seeking justice through the employment tribunals have been deterred by the fees introduced by the Coalition Government. Dependent on the claim lodged, it could cost a worker up to £1200 to bring a claim to seek justice. The statistics show:

  • There were 79% fewer claims received (9,801) in October to December 2013 compared to the claims received (45,710) in October to December 2012.
  • There were 75% fewer claims received in October to December 2013 compared to the claims received (38,963) in July to September 2013.
  • There were 63% fewer age discrimination claims, 58% fewer disability discrimination claims, 57% fewer race discrimination claims, 77% fewer sex discrimination claims, and 65% fewer unfair dismissal claims received in October to December 2013 compared to the claims received in October to December 2012.

The government introduced the fees in July last year based on the argument that it was too easy for disgruntled workers to bring claims, that many claims were frivolous and the fees were meant to deter “unmeritorious claims”.

In a legal challenge brought by Unison recently (and although they lost) the High Court accepted Unison’s argument that the “EU law principle of effectiveness” could be violated by the requirement for an employee to pay fees as a condition for accessing the Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal.

The principle would be violated if the fees made it “virtually impossible or excessively difficult” for an employee to exercise rights conferred by EU law, such as in relation to claims for discrimination.

The High Court ruled this legal challenge to be premature but accepted that the “disputed evidence as to the dramatic fall in claims may turn out to be powerful evidence to show that the principle of effectiveness, in the fundamentally important realm of discrimination, is being breached”.

If so, the High Court stated that it expects the government to change the system without any further litigation.

The fact is that now many workers who feel they have been unfairly sacked or discriminated against will now have to stump up fees that few can afford, denying an opportunity to seek redress from bad employers.

Tony Burke is chair of the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom, at whose website this article first appeared

  1. the sad thing about this the little tory party labour hasn’t put up a fight about it making it a norman justice were only the rich get it jeff3

  2. I suspect to hear Miliband saying we will back that but we will cap it.

    Seems with labour to day caps are the in thing.

    Little wonder most people in this country sit at home at election time, they are not to sure anymore who is whom and what is what, ask somebody who is the Tory party and people will answer both. The Liberals are the lap dogs of which ever party needs them.

    Miliband does not come out against anything in case he upsets the Public who I suspect would not know Miliband if he waled into a room.

  3. It is clearly disturbing when ever higher barriers are put up to workers seeking redress for wrongs done to them. I wonder, though, if the only way of avoiding this is to provide free access to the tribunal system. Is there not a problem of claims without merit? For example I know of a case in which an employee sacked for incompetence/lateness responded by going to a tribunal and accusing the employer of racism. Rather than go through the expense of the tribunal with possible bad publicity, the company concerned, against the wishes of the manager directly involved who wanted to clear his name, preferred to make a private settlement. I am not saying that this is typical but I also know that it is not an isolated case. Is it possible to discuss abuse of the system and how to avoid it when there is free access?

    Should we not consider ways of inhibiting groundless claims without making it “virtually impossible or excessively difficult” to access tribunals. Perhaps if the court could demand costs in such cases, or some such system, it would avoid excessive waste of public money.

    I am no expert in this field so the above are genuine questions.