Tribunal fees here to stay as claims continue to fall

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“Clearly the continued trend of an overall fall in tribunal claims, which is shown by the latest statistics, is good news for employers,” says Charles Urquhart, partner at law firm Clyde & Co.

The latest Employment Tribunal claims statistics have been published this week showing that the dramatic fall in the number of Tribunal claims has continued.

This comes not long after trade union Unison had their latest legal challenge to the new fees system rejected, with many believing that they are now here to stay, which must be viewed as good news for employers.

For the first quarter of 2015/16, only 12,563 claims were accepted. This contrasts with 44,334 claims in the first quarter of 2013/14 (before Tribunal fees were introduced) – a fall of 72 percent. In the five years between 2009 and 2013 (inclusive) there were at least 40,000 claims in every quarter bar one (when there were over 39,000).

“Clearly the continued trend of an overall fall in tribunal claims, which is shown by the latest statistics, is good news for employers,” says Charles Urquhart, partner at law firm Clyde & Co.

The release of these statistics follows the decision by the Court of Appeal last month to reject Unison’s attempt to have the Tribunal fees regime declared unlawful: Unison argued that the reduction in the number of claims showed that the fees regime impeded the ability of individuals to enforce their employment rights.

“Although the Lord Chancellor is currently carrying out a review of the fees regime, with a brief to ‘make recommendations for any change to the structure and level of fees for proceedings in the Employment Tribunal and the Employment Appeals Tribunal’, it seems unlikely that the Government will change this law which it, itself, introduced,” continues Urquhart, “So, it seems that, at least for the duration of this Government, Tribunal fees are here to stay – at least in England and Wales. By contrast, the Scottish Government has indicated that it intends to abolish Tribunal fees.”

Urquhart does not believe that tribunal fees are the only contributing factor to the continuing drop in the number of claims.

“The reduction in claims is not, however, purely attributable to the introduction of tribunal fees. The Acas early conciliation scheme which was introduced in May 2014 has also contributed to the continued decline in claims and it is therefore impossible to assess what impact the fees regime alone has had on claims. One thing however is clear: the scale of the impact that these two Tribunal reforms have had on reducing the number of Tribunal claims has been both significant and, to many, surprising.”

Key Statistics:

  • The number of total claims accepted has fallen dramatically from 20,335 (Q4 2014/15) to 12,563 (Q1 2015/15) – a fall of 38 percent. And compared with the Q1 2013, before tribunal fees were introduced, this represents a 72 percent fall from 44,334.
  • A 25 percent fall in the number of discrimination claims, from 3,576 to 2,849.
  • A 28 percent fall for equal pay claims, from 3,360 to 2,395
  • A 62 percent fall for working time directive claims, from 11,728 to 4,449
  • A 78 percent increase for part time workers regulations claims, from 41 to 73

Trade Unions, led by Unison, have argued that the fees have effectively priced many workers out of the ability to exercise their employment rights, whilst advocates of the new scheme maintain that they are preventing spurious claims.

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