Abolition of Employment Tribunal Fees?

The Scottish Government’s intention to abolish tribunal fees was boldly announced in its paper: “A Stronger Scotland: the Government’s programme for Scotland 2015 – 16” and it flies in the face of the recent Court of Appeal decision dismissing UNISONS’ appeal, challenging the legality of employment tribunal fees. Whilst the sentiment of the Scots is being echoed by various bodies and committees in the rest of Britain, whether or not abolition is on the cards across to board, remains to be seen.

The dramatic decrease in the number of employment tribunal claims that has followed the introduction of fees in July 2013 has not gone unnoticed; statistics show that there has been a decrease in claims of over 67%, and that in some areas (for example sex discrimination and equal pay claims), there has been an even more dramatic drop in claims.

The TUC, amongst others, has used this to support a contention that the current system of fees has greatly reduced access to justice and should be abolished entirely. Others call for reform of the level of fees and the remissions thresholds to improve access, particularly in relation to lower value claims. The Law Society has emphasised the importance of ascertaining the reasons behind the huge reduction in the number of people taking disputes to the employment tribunal (ET). It states that fees have “harmed access to justice” and that “since July 2013, many people have not been able to enforce their employment rights.”

Niki Avraam, Head of Howat Avraam Solicitors’ Employment team, comments: “the Scots have given themselves significant wriggle room on the timing for change as the programme sets out actions for the coming year and a decade ahead. English reform of the Employment Tribunal systems seems very much to be on the cards; who knows, perhaps the Scots will be beaten to it.”

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