Law Society urges rethink on employment tribunal fees
The Law Society of Scotland has urged the Scottish and UK Governments to rethink employment tribunal fees.
In a report, published today, Monday, 28 July, the Law Society has said the fees represent a major barrier to access to justice and are behind an 81% drop in the number of cases going before employment tribunals in the UK since their introduction in July 2013.
Stuart Naismith, convener of the Law Society's Access to Justice Committee, said: "The effect of introducing fees, ostensibly to help meet the costs of running the tribunal system, has been drastic. We believe the current system is highly unfair and is preventing legitimate cases being heard by a tribunal.
"We have written to the both the UK Government Minister, Christopher Grayling MP and the Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny MacAskill MSP calling for an urgent review of fees."
Figures show an 81% drop in the number of claims accepted in the last quarter of 2012-13, after the fees were introduced.
Naismith said: "The employment tribunal system has worked well throughout its history, offering an impartial tribunal to resolve workplace disputes. The relationship between employer and claimant is often imbalanced and having a system in place which serves both parties effectively is crucial in the interests of fairness. We believe that the introduction of fees has changed that balance to the detriment of access to justice.
"We asked our members for their views on the impact of the fees. The overwhelming majority of respondents stated that the level of the fees prevented people with valid claims from raising them at an employment tribunal.
"Another impact of the introduction of fees is that employers no longer feel that they have to find resolution, believing that they can proceed as they wish in the knowledge that a member of staff or former employee won't raise a claim against because of the cost involved.
"It is an appalling outcome where the right not to be unfairly dismissed, which has been enshrined in statute for almost 40 years, seems now to have been completely undone following the introduction of fees."
The majority of respondents said that with the huge drop in the level of cases going before tribunals, the fees could not be supported. A smaller number suggested that there should be a review of the fee level, including that costs should be shared between employer and employee. There were a range of other views expressed as well, highlighting difficulties with the current remission process, the viability of award payment if successful, the overall structure and future of the tribunal service and the way in which alternative dispute resolution (ADR) could be incentivised.
Naismith added: "Simply put, we believe that claims which would previously have been successful are not now being brought to the tribunal as a direct result of fees. This cannot have been the intention of government and an urgent review is now needed. Such a review should consider not only the level of fees, or indeed whether there should be any fees at all, but also the whole process of resolving workplace disputes, how the tribunal service should be funded, how capacity should be managed and, ultimately, how to fairly balance the system for both claimants and employers."
Note to editors
The report on employment tribunal fees is published on the Law Society website.
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