The Labour Party has pledged to reform the employment tribunal system – but stopped short of promising to end fees introduced by the coalition government.
In a speech to the Trades Union Congress yesterday, shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna (pictured) said a Labour government would replace the current system with a ‘more streamlined and less bureaucratic’ procedure for employees and bosses.
But he did not commit to revoking the fees altogether, saying it would be a ‘mistake’ to return to the old system. Tribunal fees were introduced on 29 July 2013 and start at around £160 to issue a claim, rising to £250 a claim, depending on the type, and a further hearing fee ranging from £230 to £950.
Their introduction has caused the number of employment tribunal claims to drop by around 80%, with unions saying that workers are now being priced out of access to justice.
Umunna said the tribunal system under Labour would ‘ensure that affordability is not a barrier to employees seeking redress in the workplace’.
‘The current employment tribunal system is unfair, unsustainable and has resulted in prohibitive costs locking people out of the justice they are entitled to,’ he said.
‘If we are elected, the next Labour government will abolish the current system, reform the employment tribunals and put in place a new system which ensures all workers have proper access to justice.’
The current government has already suggested it may review the fees system for employment tribunals.
Chris Tutton, partner at national firm Irwin Mitchell, said: ‘It is important that the system for employment tribunals is reviewed regularly to ensure it is working effectively for both employees and employers.
‘Striking the balance between access to justice and the avoidance of unmeritorious claims is vital, indeed following a period of significant change to the tribunal system including the introduction of fees and compulsory early conciliation, we believe a full and open consultation exercise into the current system would be beneficial.'