Employment Tribunal claims continue to fall

21 September 2016

Tribunal fees were introduced in July 2013 and the latest statistics from the Ministry of Justice shows that the number of employment tribunal claims continues to fall but not as dramatically as they did post implementation.

The latest quarterly Statistics Bulletin from the Ministry of Justice shows that in April to June 2016 a total of 4,200 single claims were received in this quarter, down 3% on April to June 2015. In this quarter, 11,600 multiple claims were received, up 38% on last year, however the number of multiple claims cases they relate to has decreased by 32% to 295.

Employment tribunal fees review

In July 2014 when fees were introduced in the Employment Tribunals, the Government made a commitment to review their impact. In June 2015 they announced the start of that review to consider how effective the introduction of fees has been at meeting the original objectives:

  • transferring some of the cost away from the taxpayer and towards those who can afford to pay;
  • encouraging parties to seek alternative methods of dispute resolution; and
  • maintaining access to justice. while maintaining access to justice.

There has been a lengthy delay in the publication of the post-implementation review.

Major changes are urgently needed to restore an acceptable level of access to the employment tribunals system, says the Justice Committee in its report on recent and proposed changes to fees for court users in the civil and family courts and tribunals.

Statistics provided by the TUC and Unison comparing cases brought in the first three months of 2013 and 2015 showed the following reductions in the number of cases for the most common types of claims:

  • Working Time Directive, down 78%;
  • Unauthorised deductions from wages, down 56%;
  • Unfair dismissal, down 72%; equal pay, down 58%;
  • Breach of contract, down 75%, and
  • Sex discrimination, down 68%.

The Discrimination Law Association argued that reduced access to tribunals had fallen disproportionately on women and those from traditionally disadvantaged groups. Rosalind Bragg of Maternity Action said that since fees had been introduced there had been a 40% drop in claims for pregnancy-related detriment or dismissal.

In addition the Government has said that fees are likely to discourage weak and vexatious claims, and this aim received support in evidence to the Committee from the Federation of Small Businesses and Peninsula Business Services. The Committee says that this is a reasonable objective, but notes the comments of the Senior President of Tribunals that it is too soon to say whether this has happened.

Committee recommendations

The Committee finds it unacceptable that the Government has not reported the results of its review one year after it began and six months after it said it would be completed.

The Committee recommends that the Government should publish immediately the factual information which they have collated as part of their post implementation review of employment tribunal fees. The Committee says that without this information having been made available to it, its recommendations in relation to employment tribunal fees should be taken as indicating options for achieving the overall magnitude of change necessary to restore an acceptable level of access to justice to the employment tribunals system.

These recommendations include:

  • a substantial reduction in the overall quantum of fees;
  • replacement of the binary Type A/Type B categorisation of claims according to complexity;
  • an increase in disposable capital and monthly income thresholds for fee remission; and
  • further special consideration of the position of women alleging maternity or pregnancy discrimination, for whom, at the least, the time limit of three months for bringing a claim should be reviewed.