Massive drop positive proof that tribunal fees are pricing workers out of justice

The sharp fall in claims to Employment Tribunals is a stark illustration of the unjust impact of the Government’s introduction of punitive fees, said UNISON, the UK’s largest union today.   

The Ministry of Justice’s latest statistics show that the overall number of Employment Tribunal claims in the last quarter (January to March 2014) is 81% fewer than in the same period in 2013.  The union is warning that the overall number of individual claims has fallen massively since the introduction of fees. The statistics also continue to be skewed by the number of  large group[1] claims still being lodged by trade unions pursuing grievances on behalf of groups of members.

Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON, said:

“This downward spiral in the number of employment tribunal cases shows only too clearly that workers are being priced out of a fair hearing.  Today’s figures make shocking reading because individual claims are now at a perilously low level.  While UNISON and other unions continue to lodge claims on behalf of groups of members, it is clear that the introduction of fees is undermining the whole tribunal system.

“As it stands employers are being given a green light to adopt unfair and discriminatory practices in the certain knowledge that workers do not have the necessary means to make a claim against them.

“The Government’s motive in imposing these hefty fees was to make it as difficult as possible for workers to seek justice and fuel a hire and fire culture for unscrupulous employers.  UNISON is not going to let them get away with it and will continue our fight for justice for all.”

UNISON challenged the introduction of the fees from the very start with a Judicial Review to the High Court. In February this year the union lost the claim, largely on the basis that the impact of the fees was not yet quantifiable. The Court of Appeal will be hearing the Union’s appeal later this year. Today’s statistics add significant weight to the union’s arguments that workers are being priced out of justice.


Notes to editors

Tribunal fees were introduced on 29 July 2013

Fees start at around £160 to issue a claim, rising to £250 a claim depending on the type; with a further hearing fee starting at £230 to £950. Where claims are issued by a group, issue fees range from £320 and £460 (hearing fee). For a simpler “Type A” claim with 2-10 claimants, to £1500 (issue fee) and £5700 (hearing fee) for a more complex “Type B claim” with over 200 claimants.

MoJ statistics showed that the number of claims received in October to December 2013 was 9,801 – 79% fewer than in the same period of 2012, and down 75% on the period July to September 2013. Sex discrimination claims have dropped by 77% compared to the same period in 2012 and by 82% compared to the previous quarter. There were 83% fewer equal pay claims compared to the same period in 2012 – 85% less than the previous quarter. 

[1]: Following the Court of Justice of the European Union decisions in Williams v BA and  the UNISON case of Lock v British Gas, Working Time claims involving the payment of allowances or bonuses have been filed in the ET for the same groups of people every 3 months for legal reasons. This has created the impression that there are a far larger number of Working Time claims than there actually are.