The Law Society will today announce a project to examine reforms of the employment tribunal process, following a collapse in the number of claims after fees were introduced.
Figures published last week by HM Courts & Tribunals Service showed that tribunals received 74,400 claims in the quarter April to June – 71% down on the same period last year.
This is the smallest figure since records began in 2008/09, HMCTS said, attributing the fall to ‘reductions in social security and child support appeals and employment claims’. Employment tribunal fees were introduced in July 2013.
Laurie Anstis, chair of the Society’s Employment Law Committee, said the decline in the number of cases should concern all those who want citizens to be able to access justice. ‘Unless you take the extreme position that 70% of tribunal cases in 2013 were spurious, it is hard to deny that there is a big group of people today who cannot enforce their rights,’ he said.
‘Now is the right time to reconsider how the tribunal system should work. This is why we have launched a project to investigate what modern society needs and wants from employment dispute resolution.’
The announcement follows a Labour Party pledge to reform the employment tribunal system.
In a speech to the Trades Union Congress last week, shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said a Labour government would replace the current system with a ‘more streamlined and less bureaucratic’ procedure for employees and bosses.
However, he stopped short of promising to abolish fees, saying it would be a ‘mistake’ to return to the old system.
Chris Tutton, a partner at national firm Irwin Mitchell, joined calls for reform: ‘It is important that the system for employment tribunals is reviewed regularly to ensure it is working effectively for both employees and employers.
‘We believe a full and open consultation exercise into the current system would be beneficial.’