Fees, Damned Fees & Statistics.

The Ministry of Justice has just published the latest Employment Tribunal statistics following the tribunal fee introduction last summer. These quarterly figures are thought to be the first set of figures showing a more realistic impact of the tribunal fees.

The statistics from October to December 2013 reveal a startling  79 per cent decrease in the number of claims received, compared with the same period in 2012. The number of claims received was just 9,801, compared to an average of 50,000 new claims per quarter in 2012/13. More specifically, unfair dismissal claims were down by 65% and sex discrimination claims by 77%. Interestingly, despite their new enhanced powers to sift out weak claims, the Tribunal only exercised them in fewer than 1% of cases over the period.

The Ministry of Justice states that these figures need to be treated with ‘extreme caution’ for the following reasons:

1. the figures are still provisional and may be revised at a later date.

2. only five months of data is available (August to December) since the introduction of fees.

3. there is a time delay in the processing of fees and applications for fee remission, which means there may be a number of claims that were presented after July 2013 but not yet accepted.

Despite these provisos put forward by the Ministry of Justice, it is clear that the overall trend shows a dramatic decline in the number of claims being brought by claimants and it is highly likely that the decline is due to the introduction of the fees.

UNISON recently tried to quash the fees regime on the basis that it is “unjust and discriminatory” and prevents many whose rights have been infringed from obtaining redress. UNISON’s challenge failed largely because the Court considered it too soon to assess the impact of fees. That decision is being appealed and these recent statistics may now be powerful ammunition for UNISON’s appeal. If UNISON is successful, a likely outcome would be a reduction in the fees payable, rather than a wholesale repeal.

Employers are likely to take the reduced likelihood of an employee bringing a claim into account when taking commercial decisions. These statistics may also be a significant relief for those who previously may have been faced with dubious or tactical claims.

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