Recently published Tribunal statistics show a 79% drop in the number of Tribunal claims brought during a three month period in 2013 since the equivalent period in 2012. Although the Ministry of Justice is keen to point out that this figure is only provisional and should be treated with ‘extreme caution', the figure is significant enough to raise serious questions about the possible cause of the drop.
The number of claims by individuals has been declining generally for the past five years. However, it is hard to imagine that this alone has caused such a significant fall in claims. A much more likely explanation is the introduction of Tribunal fees in July 2013. Time will tell whether this is a temporary dip (perhaps caused following a surge of Tribunal claims just before the Tribunal fees were introduced) or whether it is indicative of a more long term decline in numbers. However, the trade union Unison will be watching the statistics keenly because their recent challenge to the fee regime failed in large part because of a lack of evidence of the impact of fees on access to justice. These statistics will no doubt reignite Unison's challenge and fuel further calls by employee representative bodies for the fee regime to be amended or abolished altogether.