‘Record numbers of working people bringing employment disputes,’ the Ministry of Justice shouted from the rooftops of its headquarters in Petty France. Well, that is open to debate, but it was the headline for the department’s press release following the publication of its long-awaited review into employment tribunal fees.
Now, we understand the government will try to put a positive spin on bad news. But yesterday’s press release left Obiter feeling positively dizzy. Did the ministry not think it risked looking a tad silly with its glowing press release once people had actually read the 108-page report?
Yes, 92,000 people brought forward workplace disputes last year, the highest number since the fees were introduced three years ago.
What the press release fails to mention is that the total number of claims fell from around 196,000 in the 12 months up to the fees, to 44,000 in the months following. The figure rose to 75,000 in the 12 months to September 2015 – but that’s still 62% lower than the 196,000 figure.
‘The actual fall since fees were introduced has been much greater and we have therefore concluded that it is clear that there has been a sharp, substantial and sustained fall in the volume of case receipts as a result of the introduction of fees,’ the review states.
Strangely, that particular observation fails to make it into the ministry’s press release.
To be fair, we’d also struggle to put a positive spin on the fact that there are an estimated 3,000-8,000 people who were unable to resolve their disputes through conciliation, and who did not go on to issue tribunal proceedings because they could not afford to pay.
Oh wait, turns out there is a way to spin that. Just tell people that the review found ‘nothing to suggest they have been prevented from doing so’.