The controversial introduction of the new tribunal fees enforced in July have amounted to a plummeting in employment tribunal claims in the final quarter of 2013. The final quarter of 2013 showed that the number of claims made were 9,801 which represents a 70% fall compared with the final quarter in 2012 and comparing to the third quarter of the previous year (2013) there was a similar 75% reduction. These figures were anticipated by many professionals and academics which forecasted that there would be a major slump in employment tribunal claims as a result of the increased cost of legal action which was described as a move aimed to reduce the burden from those employees lower in the pecking order.
The fees which were introduced by the government in July meant that it now costs £250 to issue a claim which is up from £160, depending on the type of claim, with further hearing fees of between £230 and £950. The head of employment at London company Kingsley Napley, Richard Fox who is also chairman of the Employment Lawyers Tribunal stated “it is now clear that many employees have been deterred from bringing tribunal claims since fees were introduced last year”. He believes that although this door is now shut for many employees as a means to resolve their employment troubles, other options will soon open such as “by turning to trade unions to fight their corner”.
Unison the trade union last month sought to challenge the legality of the introduction of the new tribunal fees. Their legal action was subsequently dismissed by the High Court. In his judgment in the case of Unison v Lord Chancellor Mr Justice Irwin and Lord Justice Moses stated that the trade union’s case was premature and stated that at this stage there was a lack of concrete evidence which is needed to overturn the regime.
The trade union which was unhappy with the decision reached stated their intention to take their case further by lodging an appeal in the Court of Appeal. They want the court to reconsider the facts and especially the argument put forward that the fees will have a much more disproportionate effect on women than initially projected. The figures were labelled as ‘shocking’ according to the trade union’s general secretary, Dave Prentis. He stated that the negative effect which the fees for the tribunal system brought is no “blatantly obvious”. He says that their introduction is simply unfair and that they should be reversed to the old system. The argument put forward by the general secretary is that money should be no obstruction to justice whether that be for employment of accident claims solicitors, and that it is atrocious that this is the effect which the government is bringing on many workers across the country wishing to seek remedies through the tribunal system.