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Parliamentary Review of Employment Tribunal Fees

30th June 2016

The House of Commons Justice Committee has published its review into court and Tribunal fees. The committee has concluded that major changes are urgently needed to restore an acceptable level of access to the Employment Tribunal system.

It should be noted that this is not the Government review of Tribunal fees, which was completed last year, but has yet to be published (which itself was a subject of criticism from the Justice Committee).The Justice Committee did not object to the principle of fees in the Employment Tribunal system, noting that users should expect to take some degree of financial risk in considering legal action. The issue that they were concerned about was the fact that there has been such a huge drop in the number of claims going to the Employment Tribunal, and the effect that the introduction of the fees has had on that.

The Justice Committee observed that the Government's assertion that the large drop in claims is largely attributable to the success of the ACAS Early Conciliation Scheme was not sustainable, "even on the most favourable construction" (para 69). In addition the Government has said that the fees are likely to discourage weak and vexatious claims - which is an assertion and aim supported by the Federation for Small Businesses. The Justice Committee has concluded that this assertion is at least premature, and in our experience is simply untrue.There was also criticism of the current fee system which determines the fee by reference to the type of claim concerned. The Justice Committee noted that this does not reflect the actual difficulty or complexity, or the length of cases. 

In essence the Justice Committee have recommended that the Government should overhaul the current fee remission system, and that only one fee remission application should be required to cover both the issuing fee and the hearing fee. 

The main finding is that the level of fees should be "substantially reduced" (para 79) in order to maintain proper access to justice. The report argues that there should be a clear and justifiable relationship between the fee and the claim in dispute. One distinct and particular observation of the Justice Committee is that the normal three months time limit for bringing a claim to the Employment Tribunal should be extended in pregnancy discrimination cases (para 79). 

In light of the timing of the report and the result of the EU Referendum, it is unlikely that this issue will receive any attention from the Government, and little attention from the press either.

If you need advice or assistance on any of the matters raised in this article, do not hesitate to contact Hallett Employment Law Services Ltd    

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