The most recent Employment Tribunal statistics were published earlier this month and a discernible, but perhaps not altogether unsurprising, trend is emerging: claim numbers have continued to fall since the introduction of the fee regime in July 2013. Between April - June 2014 Employment Tribunals across the UK received 70% fewer single claims than they did in the same period in 2013.
The apparent aim of the Tribunal fee system was to reduce the number of vexatious or frivolous claims and to reduce cost, with justice minister Shailesh Vara stating that “it is not fair for the taxpayer to foot the entire £74m bill for people to escalate workplace disputes to a Tribunal, and it is not unreasonable to expect people who can afford to do so to make a contribution.”
The dramatic fall in claims demonstrates that the government’s ambition to reduce Tribunal claims has certainly been effective, but what is not as clear is whether those with potentially strong claims are being denied access to justice as a result of financial constraints. Many organisations, including the Law Society of Scotland, are of the position that the fee regime is hampering access to justice. The Society recently stated that the large drop in claims over the past 12 months suggest that “meritorious cases were not being brought at Employment Tribunals because of the introduction of fees.”
UNISON has recently announced that it will be launching a new Judicial Review into the introduction of tribunal fees, following a hearing at the Court of Appeal on 18th September. The Lord Chancellor agreed with the trade union that a new hearing should take place as soon as possible in light of the new statistics.
We shall keep you updated on the progress of the judicial review. In the meantime, should you require any further information, please contact Alan Glazer or your usual contact at Murray Beith Murray.