The government has reviewed the effect that fees have made on employment tribunal applications, since they were introduced in 2013, and decided that they are here to stay.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has decided that, while there is clear evidence that people have been “discouraged” from pursuing claims against employers, it is not conclusive that any have been “prevented” from doing so by the scale of the fees.
This finding from the review is somewhat surprising given the drastic drop in claims that have been brought since fees were introduced, which the MoJ itself described as “significantly greater than was estimated”.
The government has faced strong criticism from unions for putting justice beyond the reach of working people, to the benefit of bad employers. The fees come in two stages. The first fee, to lodge a claim, is either £160 or £250 depending on the type of claim. If the claim then proceeds to a hearing, an additional fee of £230 or £950 is charged. So, for unfair dismissal, discrimination, equal pay and whistleblowing claims, the employee would have to find £1,200 to have their case heard. Only those who satisfy means-tested eligibility can hope for relief from paying the fees.
The introduction of tribunal fees highlights the increasing value and importance of Before-the-Event (BTE) legal protection. The financial barriers to accessing the justice system have grown in many areas, as legal aid has been withdrawn and the prospect of increases to the small claims court limit looms. Employment law has always been a key area of cover and advice for ARAG policyholders, who have the benefit of legal advice, digital resources and insurance against the legal costs, if they do need to bring a claim.
The government may have forced down the number of claims that are heard at tribunal, but the people who face some sort of problem at work still number in the hundreds of thousands.
ARAG’s Family Legal Solutions covers householders in the event of employment disputes and we will pay the tribunal fees and provide the legal muscle to secure a just outcome.