Tribunal Fees May Be An Issue For Review By Parliament
Due to the drastic drop in the number of Employment Tribunal claims made since the introduction of tribunal fees (up to 80% according to Government statistics) the issue of fees appears to be a contentious issue amongst Parliament.
The Minister of State for Skills and Enterprise Matthew Hancock MP claimed the drop in figures marked the end of the tribunal system being “ruthlessly exploited by people seeking to make a fast buck.”
Alternatively the Minister for Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs in the Department for Business Jenny Willott MP stated at a Westminster Forum event that amongst various aspects of the Tribunal system under review “one of those issues I am sure will be the level of fees” but did note that whilst the new fee system is under parliamentary scrutiny it is too soon to be able to fully assess the repercussions.
Jenny Willott’s comments seem to be consistent with the Judgement held in the recent case of Unison v Lord Chancellor where the High Court dismissed Unison’s challenge to the introduction of tribunal fees.
Whilst the High Court did dismiss the challenge it was held that enough time needs to pass before the Court has robust evidence that EU law is being infringed and are then able to effectively review the fee system and determine if it needs to be amended.
In my opinion whilst I appreciate the Court’s stance on filtering out ‘fanciful’ claims it could be argued that from a moral perspective the Tribunal Service is required because of the actions of employers and it seems somewhat harsh to impose such high fees on the genuine victims of sexual harassment unlawful deductions from wages and unfair dismissal.
If the statistics continue to drop and the Court’s are to consider a review then a suitable ‘middle ground’ should be sought. An interesting reference to this has been provided in an article by political wonk Richard Dunstan who proposes an alternative fee regime of nominal fees for example an issue fee of £50 a respondent’s fee of £50 to defend a claim a hearing fee of £50 for each party and a ‘losing’ fee for the unsuccessful party of £250 – £500.
Author: Nicola Williams