Although there is a fee remission scheme to help claimants with very limited financial resources, the introduction of employment tribunal fees in 2013 saw a 70% reduction in the number of claims brought (see our news item of 9 September 2014). While there is evidence that a significant portion of this reduction results from the success of compulsory pre-claim conciliation which was introduced at the same time, critics argue that fees are both disproportionate in size and deny effective access to justice for many of the most vulnerable members of the workforce.
The Ministry of Justice has published a review which draws on sources including inquiries conducted by the House of Commons Justice and Women and Equalities Committees and concluded that:
"While there is clear evidence that ET fees have discourage people from bringing claims, there is no conclusive evidence that they have been prevented from doing so" (Consultation Executive Summary, paragraph 8).
The Ministry of Justice considers that the existing fee regime is broadly meeting its original objectives and only minor adjustments are required. The proposals are:
- an extension of the fee remission scheme to help some of those who are currently on the cusp of meeting the criteria for help with fees; and
- exclusion of certain claims relating to payments from the National Insurance Fund from the requirement to pay fees. (Probably the most common claim of this sort is for payment of statutory redundancy pay and other arrears of pay when an employer becomes insolvent).
Consultation on the proposals closes on 14th March 2017.