A Ministry of Justice review has found that the introduction of employment tribunal fees in 2013, combined with mandatory ACAS conciliation a year later, has resulted in a substantial reduction in claims. The review concludes that the government's three main objectives of transferring a proportion of tribunal costs to users; encouraging people to use alternative ways of resolving disputes; and protecting access to justice, have been met. The review also says that there is no conclusive evidence that fees have prevented claims from being brought.
The review rejects the conclusions of two Parliamentary Committees that the level of fees should be substantially reduced. In particular, it found no evidence that the impact of fees on pregnancy and maternity discrimination claims was such that they should be treated differently. The Women and Equalities Committee had also recommended an extension of the three month time limit for bringing these claims – this too has been rejected.
However, the fall in tribunal claims has been significantly greater than was estimated and there is evidence that fees have discouraged some people from bringing proceedings. As a result, the government is consulting on proposals for an adjustment to the fee remission scheme ("Help with Fees"). The proposal is to increase the monthly income threshold for individuals to qualify for a fee waiver, from £1,085 to £1,250 – broadly equivalent to a 40 hour week on the national living wage.
In addition, some claims relating to insolvent companies, such as claims for redundancy payments from the National Insurance Find, will no longer require fees. This change is being made with immediate effect.
Consultation on the fee remission proposal closes on 13 March – the same month that Unison's legal challenge to the introduction of fees is expected to be heard in the courts.