Government says it will review ET fees – but don’t hold your breath!

cwu__1346677317_Employment_tribunalBy Tony Burke, Chair, Campaign For Trade Union Freedom

The Government has announced they are to review Employment Tribunal fees following a collapse in the number of workers bringing cases against employers.

In a written andwer to a question from Green MP Caroline Lucas Justice Minister Shailesh Vara said: “The Government is currently considering the options for a review of Employment Tribunal fees. A further announcement will be made in due course.”

ET fees were introduced in 2013 by the Tory-LibDem Coalition with warnings from trade unions, lawyers and employers that the fee’s of over £1,000 would deny justice to workers bringing cases against bad bosses on a wide range of employment issues including unfair dismissals, equality and race discrimination issues, issues related to unfair deductions in pay etc.

Former minister LibDem Jo Swinson – part of the government that drove the fees through went into panic mode writing to minister Shailesh Vara asking for a review when the fist big drop in cases was announced a move which Labour’s Chuka Umunna said was ‘cynical and utterly shameless’.

The new report shows that there has been a more than a 60% drop in the number of cases being heard by tribunals.

In March this year over 400 barristers wrote an letter to the then Justice Secretary Chris Grayling calling the charges a “barrier to justice.”

In a written andwer to a question from Green MP Caroline Lucas new Justice Minister Shailesh Vara said: “The Government is currently considering the options for a review of Employment Tribunal fees. A further announcement will be made in due course.”

It currently costs a minimum of £160 to launch a claim against an employer, and £230 for a tribunal hearing. Some cases, such as those involving unfair dismissal cost £250 to lodge a claim and a further £950 for a hearing, meaning total costs can exceed £1,000.

House of Commons research published earlier this year showed that there were 32,671 fewer single claim cases between October 2013 and September 2014 compared to the previous year – a 64% decrease.

The number of multiple claim cases was down 3,527, a 67% decrease.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said the “drastic drop” in claims “is the sad consequence of a system which ensures that Britain’s bad bosses get away with the harassment and abuse of workers. Tribunal fees are pricing workers out of justice and have created a barrier to basic rights at work. The government has put Britain in a race to the bottom that is creating an economy based on zero-hours jobs and zero-rights for workers.
The Government needs to fulfil its commitment to carry out a full and transparent review of the tribunal fees process. The Government must then move quickly to bring forward proposals that secure access to justice for all working people.”

Gavin Mansfield QC, who is chair of the Employment Law Bar Association, gave the Government’s shift in position a cautious welcome. He said: “We are very pleased the Government is considering this review, but we will reserve judgement for now. Trade unions and workers groups have done a lot of work in this area alongside barristers – there’s a clear body of opinion”.

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