The government has announced its plans to review the impact of the introduction of Employment Tribunal Fees implemented in July 2013. The review will consider how effective the introduction of fees has been at meeting its objectives and maintaining access to justice.
Bringing a claim or an appeal to the employment tribunal was free of charge up until 2013, with the full cost being met by the taxpayer. The government’s reasons for the reform were said to be to avoid “drawn out disputes” which are “very emotionally damaging for workers and employers, as well as being financially damaging for employers”.
The fee regime has been successful in its objective to reduce claims and promote early resolution by encouraging parties to seek alternative ways of resolving their disputes. However, what is less clear is its success in respect of its financial objective. One of the primary aims of the scheme was to transfer a proportion of the £84m cost of running the system from the tax payer to those who use the tribunal. In practice the drastic reduction in claims means that the revenue raised by the fee systems is far less than anticipated. The review will consider what, if any, impact this has had. There is also a very serious issue of maintaining access to justice.
The announcement has been long awaited, after the government missed its target of a 12 month review in July 2014. However, its timing comes moments before the judicial review at the Court of Appeal of the Unison challenge to the introduction of fees. Critics may claim that this is as a move by the government to avoid being asked to explain why it had not delivered on its promise to review the fees regime 12 months after its implementation.