Tribunal fees have been a legal, political and social hot potato since their introduction in July 2013. Some have praised their merit in preventing frivolous claims that waste company resources and management time. Others would say that they provide a barrier preventing people access to the justice system which should be there to protect them. Whatever your thoughts changes could certainly be in the pipeline.
Following on from last week's government announcement in parliament, a review into employment tribunal fees and the fee remission scheme has now been announced.
This will focus on the effectiveness of the fees and look at financial and behavioural objectives, as well as assessing the impact on access to justice. The review will also consider the effectiveness of the current fee remission scheme (means tested fee reduction).
The information that the government will use to help its decision includes:
- Tribunal data on volumes, progress and outcomes of cases
- Financial information, such as income received from fees and the costs of running the system of fee recovery, and data on fee remissions
- The general trend of employment tribunal cases before fees were introduced, and following the introduction
- The extent to which there has been a reduction in weak or unmeritorious claims
The review is likely to be finished later in the year. It is also important to note that the timing of this announcement comes just prior to the appeal hearing in UNISON's application for judicial review against the introduction of employment tribunal fees.
The results of both the government review and the UNISON appeal could have a substantial effect on employment law. It is clear from the latest figures on the number of employment tribunal cases for the period from January 2015 – March 2015 there is a continuing decline in claims. Also, only one in five applications for tribunal fee reductions are successful. If the review and appeal influence a change in the fee structure we could see this decline stop and ultimately reverse.
Of course as employers, any change to the fee could have an impact on the number of claims that are brought against them. This will mean that reviews of company policies and employee contracts should take place to ensure that they are up to date and accurately reflect current practices.
Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.