Employment Tribunals – A Changing Landscape?
The House of Commons Justice Committee has recently published its review into Court and Tribunal Fees which condemn the excessive fees currently in place, claiming that they prevent employees who have legitimate grievances from obtaining justice.
By way of a reminder, in July 2013 issue fees and hearing fees for claimants were introduced in employment tribunals. This has led to a drop of almost 70% in the number of cases brought. The Justice Committee’s report argues that fees are set too high and unfairly disadvantage those with less financial clout. The Committee has no objection to the principle of charging fees but made the following recommendations in its report:
- A substantial reduction in the overall quantum of fees
- Replacement of the binary Type A/Type B categorisation of claims according to complexity
- An increase in the disposable capital and monthly income thresholds for fee remission
- Special consideration for women alleging maternity or pregnancy discrimination (in particular in relation to the three month time limit for bringing a claim)
The report is critical of the Government’s failure to publish its own post implementation review of the impact of tribunal fees, which is now some six months late. It acknowledges that without access to the information that the Government has collated as part of its review it cannot conclusively say whether the changes set out above would be adequate to restore an acceptable level of access to justice in the employment tribunals.
As this report was published in the midst of a changing political landscape it is unlikely to have much political impact.
Publication of Employment Tribunal Decisions
HM Courts and Tribunals Service has announced plans to introduce a new online database of employment tribunal decisions in autumn this year and states that the new database will be available to all to search on the internet. To begin with, only new judgments will be published on the database, not historic ones.
Such a move could have significant reputational issues for employers particularly in terms of recruitment. Some are also concerned that it will encourage individuals to “jump on the band wagon” and embark upon litigation themselves if they can relate to or have experienced treatment similar to that set out in these newly accessible judgments (particularly if tribunal fees are ultimately reduced).