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Employment tribunals 'well beyond the reach of many people'

Tue 04 Aug 2015

The Law Society has warned that employment tribunal fees are impeding people's access to justice.

According to the latest data from the Ministry of Justice, the number of employment tribunal cases has come down by nearly two-thirds since fees were first introduced.

The Law Society pointed out that putting charges in place has had the "inevitable effect" of denying people their "right to have their dispute heard in a tribunal", as only those who can afford the fees are taking legal action.

Jonathan Smithers, president of the Law Society, said dealing with most types of cases costs around £1,200, which is close to the average monthly salary.

As a result, he believes employment tribunals are "well beyond the reach of many people", especially those who are on lower incomes.

Mr Smithers insisted that everyone needs fair and affordable employment tribunals and a system that works for both employers and their staff.

He added that the Law Society supports and will be contributing to an inquiry into the impact of court and tribunal fees that was recently announced by the Justice Committee.

The Trades Union Congress has already welcomed the review, but said recently that it is "long overdue". 

Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the body, has insisted it must be "transparent and prepared to recommend abolishing the current system", as tribunal fees have "been a gift for Britain's worst bosses".

Eleanor Gilbert, a senior associate at Winckworth Sherwood Solicitors, commented: “It will be interesting to see the outcome of the Justice Committee’s inquiry which should hopefully shed some light on the types of claims which are not being pursued and what other factors, other than fees, are having an impact on the drop in claims – for example, the new (mandatory) ACAS Early Conciliation procedure and the qualifying period of service for unfair dismissal claims being increased from one year to two years (albeit this change took effect three years ago)."

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