Employers split on future of tribunal fees

Lack of consensus prevails on highly divisive legal issue as tribunal cases fall 70%.

A poll of employers has found that there is no widespread agreement on whether to retain controversially-high tribunal fees, according to HR professional body CIPD.

The survey of 1,000 UK employers suggests a very small majority of respondents (38%) believe the fees should be left as they are – with 36% saying they should either be reduced significantly or abolished.

Around one-quarter (27%) of those polled in paper Conflict Management: A Shift in Direction? said they were undecided on the issue.

The fees were introduced in July 2013. They are intended to prevent vexatious and frivolous claims being brought – while also saving time and resources by encouraging parties in dispute to resolve issues in-house before going to tribunal. Individual cases can cost employees up to £1,200 in total fees.

Since the fees have been introduced the number of cases saw a year-on-year drop of 70% in the 3 months up to June 2014.

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Secretary of state for business, innovation and skills Vince Cable called it vital that any system “strikes the right balance between employee and employer protection”.

“The fact that employers are so split over whether the introduction of tribunal fees has been a good or a bad thing further reinforces the need for a review, despite opposition in some quarters. I’ve now set one in motion in my Department‎,” he added.

CIPD employee relations adviser Mike Emmott acknowledged that the introduction of fees “has had a major impact on the behaviour of both employees and employers”.

He continued: “Fees may not make it impossible for claimants to pursue their case but they’ve certainly made it more difficult, which begs the question: are we putting too high a price on justice?”

Open letter

Meanwhile a group of 400 solicitors has sent an open letter to justice secretary Chris Grayling. It criticises the government for setting the fees too high.

The letter from the Employment Law Bar Association calls fees a “significant barrier to access to justice”.

“We do not think that the current level of fees can be justified by the suggestion – repeatedly made by the media, politicians and others – that prior to July 2013 a significant percentage of employment tribunal claims were vexatious,” the letter reads.

“The introduction of fees has had no discernible impact on the outcome of cases. This must mean that meritorious claims are not being pursued because of the fees regime.”

Further reading on employment law: Tribunal reviews win business backing

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.

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