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Working Families Gives Evidence on Employment Tribunal Fees
Published: 26 Nov 2015
Working Families gave evidence to the Justice Committee about employment tribunal fees last week. There’s no doubt from our experience that these fees – up to £1,200 – are discouraging good claims. The number of queries that come through our helpline has been stable over the last 3 years, but there has been a dramatic decline in the number of people asking for our help in the employment tribunal process: a decrease of up to 80 per cent since the fees came in.
Indeed, in our area of law – parental rights at work and maternity discrimination – the number of claims brought to the Employment Tribunal has reduced by about three quarters. But the overall rate of success of these claims is very much the same as it was before. If the aim of the fees was to discourage spurious or hopeless claims, it clearly has been ineffective. And far more worryingly, these fees have created injustice.
Instead of employment law now being more respected, we have seen a rising category of rogue employers who consider that they do not have to and will not obey the rules unless forced to do so and who are well aware that the fees creates a major barrier to people bringing claims against them. So the fees don’t help the good employers who respect the law – in fact rogue employers are the ones who have benefited from the changes.
Another perverse consequence of the high fees is that it has discouraged and delayed settlement. The employers who do end up settling, in our experience now always do so at a much later stage than they used to. They will wait until after payment of the hearing fees, at the very end of the tribunal process, increasing costs for both parties and wasting the tribunal’s resources.
The current fee remission system does not come anywhere near to solving the problems.. The thresholds – for example no more than £3000 in savings – are far too low and very unfair. Many people who have lost their jobs will have some savings but they need that safety net if they’re facing an uncertain future.
One of the people we have worked with is Camilla, who was on a zero hours contract but was working at least 30 hours every week. When she became pregnant, suddenly she found there were no shifts at all available for her – even though all her colleagues continued their usual hours. In effect, she was fired. She had just above £3,000 in savings but there was no way she could afford to spend nearly half of them on a uncertain case.
In practice, these tribunal fees remove the protection of the employment tribunal for a very large proportion of employees, often the most vulnerable. At Working Families, we think that they obstruct access to justice and that they should be abolished.
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