Access to justice under attack

Workers’ access to justice under attack

The number of employment tribunal claims has fallen by 59% since fees were introduced last July. Today’s statistics confirm that excessive fees to bring claims are pricing many workers out of justice. Prospect pays the fees for members in cases we support, so union members are protected from this.

Official figures released today show that in the first quarter of 2014 the number of single claims was down by 59% compared to the same period in 2013. The total number of claims issued in this period was only 5,619. The statistics demonstrate the shocking, though predictable, impact of charging fees.

Fees were introduced from July 2013. It now costs £1,200 to bring a claim of unfair dismissal or discrimination to the tribunal. Claims for unpaid holiday pay or wages cost £390, which can sometimes be more than the value of the claim itself.

Earlier figures released for the period up to the end of December 2013 showed an even greater fall of 79%. This may be partly explained by delays in processing payments and applications for remission.

However, today’s statistics, over a more reliable period, confirm the number of claims have fallen substantially. It is clear the fees are deterring a considerable number of workers from bringing claims.

The government argued that its scheme for remission of fees would cushion the low paid against hardship. However, the financial limits for remission are so low that few claimants qualify. For the period up to 31 December 2013 only a quarter of remission applications were successful.

The number of claims presented by Prospect has not dropped, as the union pays the fees for members where we support the case.

Marion Scovell, Prospect legal officer, said: “The fall off in claims is scandalous. This government has not only made it easier and cheaper to sack workers, but also removed the opportunity for many workers to pursue valid claims. As Prospect pays the fees for members when we support a case, it shows just how important union membership is.”