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Government defends employment tribunal fees

Mon 24 Aug 2015

The government has defended the employment tribunal fee system after new figures showed a drop in the number of claims being made.

During the 12 months after fees were first introduced, the number of claims fell by nearly two-thirds to 135,845.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has insisted it is right that people who can afford to "should make a contribution to the cost of employment tribunals".

An MoJ  spokesman also pointed out that the government is "protecting the most vulnerable by ensuring those who have limited means have fee waivers and are not excluded from seeking redress".

However, critics of the policy believe the figures demonstrate the need to scrap the fees. For instance, Labour MP for Cardiff Central Jo Stevens told WalesOnline that all the warnings given to the former coalition government regarding the effect of fees on access to justice "have been proved right".

Meanwhile, Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, described the figures as "shocking" and said tribunal fees have been "a gift for Britain's worst bosses", as they allow them to "get away with bullying and harassing their staff".

The MoJ spokesman added that instead of taking their grievance to an employment tribunal, many people have chosen to use the free early conciliation scheme offered by ACAS.

This, he said, has led to disputes being resolved "more cheaply and less acrimoniously".

The spokesman added that the government is currently reviewing the implementation of employment tribunal fees and intends to publish its findings "in due course".

Eleanor Gilbert, senior associate at Winckworth Sherwood Solicitors, commented: "The statistics certainly speak for themselves and the criteria for obtaining a fee waiver mean that it is only likely to apply to a small number of claimants with very limited means. However, there are likely to be other factors, in addition to the fees, which have caused 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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