Tribunal fees deny access to justice, says select committee

Tribunal fees deny access to justice, says select committee

Excessive fees to bring employment tribunal claims have unfairly denied workers access to justice, the House of Commons justice select committee said today.

Scales of justice

The committee’s report is extremely critical of the government’s introduction of fees of up to £1,200 to bring employment tribunal claims.

The number of claims has fallen by around 70% since fees were introduced in July 2013.

The cross-party committee said the fee regime: “has had a significant adverse impact on access to justice for meritorious claims”. 

Far from promoting settlement of issues, the committee found that: “in many cases the existence of fees erects a disincentive for employers to resolve disputes at an early stage”.

The committee also heavily criticised the government for not publishing its review of tribunal fees, which was due by the end of 2015.

The select committee recommended that:

  • fees should be substantially reduced
  • the existing two-level fee structure should be reviewed
  • income and savings thresholds for remission of fees should be increased
  • the position of women bringing maternity or pregnancy discrimination claims and the three-month time limit for bringing a claim should be reviewed. 

The committee recognised that its recommendations would have cost implications for the Ministry of Justice. But it stressed that “if there were to be a binary choice between income from fees and preservation of access to justice, the later must prevail as a matter of broader public policy”.

Prospect’s submission to the inquiry last year said: “Prospect believes the fall-off in claims has been scandalous. Through the introduction of fees, coupled with seriously detrimental changes to other aspects of employment law, the government has not only made it easier and cheaper to sack workers but has also removed the opportunity for many workers to pursue valid claims.”

Marion Scovell, head of Prospect Legal said: “It is disappointing that the committee did not recommend abolishing fees, but the report is extremely critical of the government’s policy and makes welcome recommendations to reduce fees and increase eligibility for remission.

“The number of claims presented by Prospect for our members has not dropped, as we pay the fees where we support the case. This demonstrates just how important union membership is for individual workers,” Scovell concluded.