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Employment Tribunal Fees: has anything really changed?

I was in the Employment Tribunal with a client recently for a four day hearing.  We won.  But the case was an interesting reflection on the current state of the Tribunal system and the impact, or in some ways, the lack of impact that the Government’s introduction of fees has had.

This was a claim with little merit, my client thought ‘misconceived’.  Perhaps the type of unmeritorious claim the Government was trying to weed out with the introduction of Tribunal fees.  However, the Claimant was a high earner and could easily afford £1,200 to pursue his claim in the hope he would make a return on this investment.  It seems those employees with entirely valid claims, with little means to pursue them, may not be so lucky.

Despite our success at the end of long and hard fought case, my client took little pleasure from the triumph when they accounted for the management time, disruption to the business and cost of fighting a claim which had little merit from the outset, but just enough to warrant four days with an Employment Judge!

There is no denying that Tribunal fees have dramatically reduced the number of claims in the system – the statistics do not lie!  Strangely, my team is dealing with more claims than ever. This is perhaps a reflection of the state of the legal market place with employers moving to better value advisers.  What is clear is that we are seeing more complex dismissal, discrimination and whistleblowing cases.  When was the last time we saw a claim for unpaid wages alone?

Our success in Tribunal confirmed to me that the current fees regime introduced by the Government really isn’t entirely hitting the mark and preventing claims with little merit entering the system.  There’s also a significant risk that those with genuine claims are being prevented access to justice because they can’t pay their way.

Perhaps events on the national stage in May will bring further change, with several political parties confirming that they’ll review the current system.  But will anything radically change given the savings to the tax payer which must have been made following the introduction of fees?

Posted on April 27, 2015

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