The long-awaited review by the Government of the effects of the introduction of fees in the Employment Tribunal, introduced in July 2013, has finally been published. While the outcome of the review was that the introduction of fees had broadly meet its objectives, there were 'issues of concern'.
The broad findings were as follows:
- users are contributing between £8.5 million and £9 million a year in fee income, in line with what we expected, transferring a proportion of the cost from the taxpayer to those who use the tribunal;
- more people are now using ACAS’s free conciliation service than were previously using voluntary conciliation and bringing claims to the ET combined; and
- ACAS’s conciliation service is effective in helping just under half the people who refer disputes to them avoid the need to go to the tribunal, and where conciliation has not worked, most people go on to issue proceedings in the ET.
Employment lawyers up and down the country voiced concerns, both outside and in Court, by way of a judicial review challenge, that the introduction of fees would prejudice applicants and erode justice for those who did not have the necessary means to bring and see through a claim in the ET and that it would lead and had led to a significant decrease in the number of claims in the ET.
The review itself is 108 pages long - some bedtime reading!
We have however identified some issues of concern. The fall in claims has been significantly greater than was estimated when fees were first introduced. Although we remain satisfied that there are sufficient safeguards in place to make sure that fees do not prevent people from bringing claims before the ETs, there does appear to be evidence that fees have discouraged some people from bringing proceedings.