September 16, 2014

Tribunal fees: pricing individuals out of the justice system?

This post was written by: Amarjit Atwal

Statistics published by the Ministry of Justice on 11 September 2014 show that the amount of people bringing claims in the employment tribunal has decreased rapidly in the last year.

Single claims in the tribunal were down by a whole 70% in the periods between April and June 2014 compared to the same time last year. This substantial decrease in the number of claims can be linked to the new fee system that was introduced last July.

In addition to the imposition of new fees, since April 2014 it has become mandatory to contact Acas prior to bringing a claim at tribunal. This is in a bid to encourage early conciliation.

Frances O’Grady, the TUC general secretary, claimed that although early conciliation, as encouraged through Acas, is enabling cases to be resolved prior to issuing employment tribunal proceedings, it “can’t explain such a large fall in the number of employment tribunals”. She has also called for court fees to be scrapped.

Indeed, it seems as though the introduction of employment tribunal fees of up to £1,200 have deterred many prospective claimants.

An alternative view, as championed by Shailesh Vara, justice minister, is that the introduction of fees is a positive change as it deters vexatious litigants from bringing claims. Mr Vara said ‘hardworking taxpayers should not be picking up the bill for reemployment disputes in tribunals’.

Although this may be the case, it is clear that imposing high fees can price individuals out of the justice system. In response, shadow Business Secretary, Chuka Umunna has even proposed abolishing all employment tribunal fees.

However it is clear that the introduction of the new Acas early conciliation process coupled with the introduction of court fees has made a noticeable impact on the amount of claims reaching the employment tribunal. Whether this impact is positive or negative is yet to be seen.


Amarjit Atwal, Paralegal