Advice Line: fees for employment tribunals need reversing

The introduction of fees for employment tribunals was a catastrophe that needs reversing, says Ian Taylor

Employment Tribunals (ETs) are a last resort to resolve a workplace dispute in England, Scotland and Wales. With a membership of more than 50,000, the CSP might run only a handful of ET cases in a typical year. Yet for many vulnerable workers they offer a lifeline to justice, and vital financial recompense for unfair treatment at work. 
ETs were established (as ‘industrial’ tribunals) in the 1960s, intended as an accessible lay court, with no costs attached, for workers to obtain justice for unfair treatment by employers. By 2010, more than 100,000 ET claims a year were being made. 
So when the government announced in 2013 that it was introducing fees for claimants lodging employment tribunal claims, trade unions were understandably concerned. When the scale of those fees was announced – up to £1,200 if a claim goes to a full hearing – that concern intensified. The TUC predicted at the time that the numbers of cases would drop by a third to a half. 
In fact, they have dropped by a staggering 70 per cent. And this figure masks an even greater reduction in claims for sex discrimination suggesting that women have been disproportionately affected. 
Sitting as I do as a lay panel member in the ET in Leeds, I regularly see examples of appalling treatment by a minority of employers who simply hope that they will get away with it. One suspects that the small numbers of claimants passing through the tribunal system these days is only the tip of a much larger iceberg. 
The CSP, through the TUC, opposed the introduction of fees and continues to support the campaign for their removal. The publication of a long-awaited Ministry of Justice report into their impact has been delayed several times, and is clearly a low priority for the current government. Hopefully, when the report is eventually published, we will see the removal of this barrier to justice and a much fairer regime all round. 
  • Ian Taylor is a CSP senior negotiating officer

A different system operates in Northern Ireland, where no fees are payable.

Ian Taylor is a CSP senior negotiating officer.

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