Readers will remember that Employment Tribunal fees were controversially introduced in July 2013. Since then, for the majority of cases, there has been an upfront fee of up to £250 to raise a claim followed by a further hearing fee of up to £950, both payable by the Claimant. Since the introduction of these fees there are has been a sharp decline in the number of claims being raised. The latest figures published by the Ministry of Justice highlighted that the number of claims raised between January 2015 and March 2015 was only 20,333. This is in stark comparison with the 63,715 claims raised between the same period in 2013, the period just prior to the fees being introduced. This raises serious access to justice questions.
The Government made a commitment to review the fees when they were introduced. On 11 June 2015, the Government announced that the review of these fees will now start.
The review will consider whether the introduction of fees has met the original objectives, while maintaining access to justice. The original objectives were:
- to transfer some of the cost of the service from the taxpayer to those who use it;
- to encourage alternative dispute resolution; and
- to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the tribunal.
Analysis of the system will be carried out with reference to a variety of evidence gathered through data and research. The review will consider the take up of alternative dispute resolution services, including the numbers of people using ACAS’s conciliation services. It will also consider the volumes of claims received and how cases progress in Employment Tribunals. Data on fee remissions including applications made, applications granted and applications refused will also be evaluated. The review will also take into account financial information, including income received from fees, the costs (including implementation costs) incurred in setting up systems to charge and collect the fees and savings delivered. The characteristics of those who use the Employment Tribunals and Employment Appeals Tribunal, in particular users with protected characteristics will also be taken into consideration.
Recommendations for any changes to the structure and level of fees for proceedings in the Employment Tribunals and the Employment Appeals Tribunal will be outlined following the review. No timetable has been set for the review but the Ministry of Justice have stated that the review is expected to be completed by late 2015.
In the meantime, UNISON's challenge to the fees regime as part of their judicial review proceedings will continue in the Court of Appeal this month. A decision on this challenge is not expected until autumn this year.
We will provide an update as soon as the outcome of the government review and the Court of Appeal decision have been published – so watch this space!