While employment lawyers await the outcome of a government review of employment tribunal fees, research by a conciliatory body suggests one in five cases were withdrawn as a result of the ‘off-putting’ fees.
Following the introduction of the fee regime in July 2013, the government began a review into its effectiveness in 2014.
Claimants are required to pay separate fees to issue their claim and have it heard, unless they qualify for a reduction or waiver on the grounds of having limited wealth and low income. Claim fees range from £160 to £250, with further hearing fees ranging from £230 to £950.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice told the Gazette the outcome of the review will be published ‘in due course’.
In the meantime, latest research by Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) shows that one-fifth of claimants who withdrew their employment tribunal case ‘reported that it was because the tribunal hearing fees were off-putting’.
Just over a third of claimants reported that they had applied for a fee remission when they made their tribunal application, of which four in five claimants were successful.
However, when those who successfully applied for a fee remission were asked what they would have done if their application had been unsuccessful, 37% said they would have ‘dropped their case altogether’.
Iain Birrell, a member of Thompsons Solicitors’ trade union law group, said Acas’s report confirmed that the fees were ‘dramatically undermining the right of people on low and average wages to bring a case when they have borne the brunt of the shoddy, illegal or discriminatory behaviour of their employer’.
Birrell added: ‘It’s high time that the government admitted that the introduction of [the employment tribunal fees] has been extremely harmful. People with entirely valid cases, who before were entitled to a fair hearing without having to pay, are being priced out.’
Birrell said the firm wanted to see a ‘full impact report’ published by the government, ‘warts and all’, with a ‘proper response’ addressing concerns.