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Barristers call for review of employment tribunal fees

Experts in employment law have called for an urgent review of fees to take cases to employment tribunals.

The Employment Law Bar Association, which represents barristers specialising in employment law cases for both employers and employees, published an open letter with more than 400 signatories sent to ministers including Justice Secretary Chris Grayling and Employment Relations Minister Jo Swinson on 16 March.

It said that since fees were introduced for pursuing an employment tribunal claim in July 2013, there had been “a drastic reduction” in the number of cases, adding: “The government’s own statistics…show that the average number of claims per quarter in 2012-2013 (before the introduction of fees) was 48,000; in the last quarter of 2014, there were 18,943, that is 60 per cent fewer claims. 

“In our view the present employment tribunal fees are a significant barrier to access to justice, and are preventing employees from being able to complain about contraventions of their employment rights.

“We do not think that the current level of fees can be justified by the suggestion that prior to July 2013 a significant percentage of employment tribunal claims were vexatious claims. Indeed, the statistics kept by the Ministry of Justice show that of the claims that proceeded to a hearing in 2012-3, more claims were successful than unsuccessful.”

The letter said that the government had announced in April last year that it intended to review the introduction of the fees, and the level at which they had been set, but no date had been set.

It called for the review to take place as a matter of urgency and urged all political parties, ahead of the general election on 7 May, to state their commitment to such a review.