Expensive Employment Tribunal Fees Are Preventing Access To Justice

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The Law Of... pricing people out of justice

Expensive fees are stopping thousands of people from taking discrimination or unfair dismissal claims to an employment tribunal, according to figures published by the TUC.

Employment Tribunal Fees Are Stopping Access To Justice

Figures from the Ministry of Justice show that in 2015/16 there were only 83,031 claims compared to 191,541 in the year 2012/13, which was before the introduction of fees.

To put this into context, in the year before the fees were introduced around 16,000 people per month were taking claims against their employer to employment tribunals. Now, this figure has dropped to 7,000.

The Price Of Justice

The fees vary according to the type of claim being made and individuals are expected to pay up to £1,200 for employment tribunal claims.

There are 2 types of claims that can be made: Type A and Type B claims.

Regardless of whether they're making a Type A or Type B claim, individuals have to pay 2 sets of fees: a claim fee, which is paid at the start of the claim, and a hearing fee, which is paid before the final hearing of their claim:

  • Type A claims: the claim fee is currently £160 and the hearing fee is £230, totalling £390. These types of claims include unpaid wages, redundancy pay, and breach of contract.
  • Type B claims: the claim fee is £250 and the hearing fee is £950, totalling £1,200. These types of claims include unfair dismissal, discrimination, equal pay, and whistleblowing.

The fees are different for groups of individuals who are making claims.

Even those who are earning the bare minimum – the National Minimum Wage (NMW) – are expected to pay the fees if a member of their family has savings of £3,000.

"These are large sums to pay out to recover a loss of wages or income at a time when it can least be afforded" Joy comments.

"Although in theory the fees can be recovered from the employer if the individual is successful, in many cases the employer does not in the end pay the award ordered, let alone the fees."

Has Discrimination Been Flourishing Unchecked?

Since the fees for employment tribunals were introduced, the TUC has found that:

  • Unfair dismissal claims have fallen by 73%
  • Sex discrimination claims have dropped by 71%
  • Claims relating to race discrimination have fallen by 58%
  • Claims relating to disability discrimination are down by 54%

They also found that Acas received notification of over 90,000 employment disputes and 65% of these weren't settled by Acas or weren't taken to an employment tribunal. This is a clear indication that a substantial number of claims are being abandoned.

Describing the key mechanism for stopping discrimination and unfair dismissal as "broken", the TUC suggested that this has allowed discrimination to "flourish unchecked".

Commenting on the current state of affairs, Frances O'Grady, General Secretary of TUC, added:

"These figures show a huge drop in workers seeking justice when they've been unfairly treated."

"Now bosses know that they can get away with it, discrimination at work can flourish unchecked and people can be sacked without good reason."

"These fees – of up to £1,200, even if you're on the national minimum wage – are pricing out thousands each month from pursuing cases."

Having carried out a review, the Justice Select Committee stated "the regime of employment tribunal fees has had a significant adverse impact on access to justice for meritorious claims."

Joy comments:

"The expensive and often disproportionate fees seriously undermine the purpose of employment tribunals in enforcing the rights of workers whose employers are failing to abide by their contractual and statutory obligations, and to protect workers who have been unfairly dismissed or subjected to discriminatory treatment by their employers."

"Tribunals resolved 15,250 single claims in 2015 – 2016.This was the lowest annual number of claims that were closed since 2009, according to the Ministry of Justice."

"The Government’s failure to address the dramatic drop in the number of claims taken to employment tribunals, coinciding with the introduction of fees and the fact that claims have remained at this low level, flies in the face of their intention to deliver a fair deal to low and average paid workers."


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