The Justice Committee, appointed by the House of Commons to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Ministry of Justice and associated public bodies has very recently published its review into Court and Tribunal Fees.
When tribunal fees were introduced on 29th July 2013 (under The Employment Tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal Fees Order 2013) there was an immediate, significant (almost 70%) drop in the number of Employment Tribunal claims. The government had initially said that they would review the introduction of fees in June 2015, with the completed review ready by the end of 2015, but we are all, still, eagerly awaiting this review.
During a Commons debate on the committee’s report, justice minister Dominic Raab apologised for the delay but could only say publication will be ‘as soon as is practicable’. Raab said the ACAS conciliation service and remission system for paying fees have helped to offset the effects of the new charges.
However, the government’s assertion that the drop in ET claims is down to the success of ACAS Early Conciliation has been described as, “even on the most favourable construction, superficial.” The Government has been heavily criticised in the review, with the Committee stating that the fees have had a “significant impact on access to justice for meritorious claims.”
Worryingly, Citizens Advice has stated that approximately 47% of Claimants would need to save all their disposable income for 6 months, just to afford the £1,200 needed to bring a ‘type B’ claim.
The Committee described the delay as “unacceptable and detrimental” to their work. They recommended that the “overall quantum of fees charged for bringing cases be substantially reduced; fee remission thresholds be increased; and further special consideration be given to the position of women alleging maternity or pregnancy discrimination.”
The findings are not binding on Parliament, but there is hope that this recent review can persuade the Government into reviewing the Tribunal Fee System and put some pressure on them.
Unfortunately, the review published by the Justice Committee was published a few days before the EU Referendum and therefore, received very little press attention.