Slump in employment tribunal cases causes political clash
In July 2013, fees of up to £1,250 were introduced by the coalition for any employment tribunal claims, to appease those in the private sector who called for an end to the number of elaborated or false claims that cost employers thousands in unnecessary legal fees and wasted time from their businesses.
Mr Cable, a Liberal Democrat, has ordered his own investigation to be conducted into whether or not the Government’s new fees are responsible for preventing people from seeking justice, not just in respect of sex discrimination claims but all employment tribunal claims.
Recently released Ministry of Justice (MoJ) figures show a fall in the number of sex discrimination cases taken to employment tribunals from 6,310 during April, May and June 2013, to 591 during the same three-month period last year.
However, though the 2014 figure shows a 90 per cent fall from the previous year, the claimant success rate has not significantly changed, which is an interesting and important factor which indicates that the fees regime might quite possibly be operating to weed out unmeritorious claims, as was originally intended.
When the coalition first introduced the fees they were welcomed by employers, but the Citizens Advice Bureau has criticised them as yet another hurdle for those workers with employment issues who are being forced to save – often for months – before they can afford them.
In order to support those affected, wider promotion of the financial support on offer has been called for, with Citizens Advice also asking the Government to adjust tribunal fees to be more in line with county court charges.
However, fees are quite probably not the only factor involved in the reduction of claims. The significance of increasing the qualifying period of employment to two years from one year to bring unfair dismissal claims from April 2012 should not be underestimated and, although there are not yet statistics available, the ACAS Early Conciliation process might also have operated to prevent some claims, which would otherwise have been lodged, from seeing the inside of a tribunal.