The government today (January 31) published a review into the introduction of Employment Tribunal (ET) fees and their impact, which showed a dramatic fall in the number of cases brought forward.
Even as the Ministry of Justice trumpeted last year’s figures showing the highest number of people bringing forward disputes since employment tribunal fees were first introduced, the report itself highlighted concerns over the overall substantial drop in claims over the last four years that fees have been in place.
“The fall in claims has been significantly greater than was estimated when fees were first introduced,” the report read, adding that “there does appear to be evidence that fees have discouraged some people from bringing proceedings.”
Unite and other trade unions have long been staunch critics of employment tribunal fees, which they argue bar workers from access to justice, particularly those who can least afford it.
The fees were first introduced in 2013 and have forced workers who for example have been sexually harassed, bullied or discriminated against in the workplace to pay up to £1,200 in employment tribunal fees. Appeals cost up to £1600.
“The government is dealing in alternative facts to claim that both the fall in employment tribunal applications is greater than they anticipated and that people are not losing out,” said Unite general secretary Len McCluskey in response to the publication of the government’s report.
“The actual facts are that when working people are priced out of justice, and it is made exceptionally difficult for their unions to pursue it on their behalf, then the only winners are bad employers,” he added.
“Quite clearly the so-called safeguards put in place by the government are not adequate,” McCluskey went on to say. “These need an overhaul now, and the crazy plan to hurt working people even further by preventing their union from pursuing personal injury claims on their behalf must be dropped too.
“How much longer can the Tories claim to be the party of working people when at every opportunity they are attacking basic rights and draining workers’ wallets?”