The Liberal Democrats said that fees "prevent many from pursuing good cases" and promised to scrap tribunal fees in order to "strengthen enforcement of employment rights". The Labour party said they would "reverse the unfair employment tribunal fees which literally price people out of justice".
The fees were introduced in 2013, purportedly to transfer a proportion of the cost from taxpayers to users of the tribunal system, to encourage alternative dispute resolution and to maintain access to justice. Immediately after their introduction the number of new claims being made each month fell from approximately 5,000 a month to around 1,500. The House of Commons Justice Committee review of the introduction of fees, published a year ago, recommended that the current level of fees should be substantially reduced. The fees were also challenged in Court shortly after they were introduced - a process that is still ongoing with R(Unison) v Lord Chancellor & Another having been heard in the Supreme Court in March with the judgement awaited.
In the meantime quarterly statistics covering January to March 2017 have been published. They will do nothing to deter the calls for change to the present system. While the number of single tribunal claims increased by 4% compared to the same period last year annual figures from April 2016 to March 2017 show only a 1% increase. A drop in the ocean compared to the 70% drop in claims that followed the introduction of fees.
With tribunal fees not getting a mention in the Conservative party manifesto it seems unlikely that any significant change is imminent. In the longer term though it is hard to believe that the level of tribunal fee won't be reduced. It is also possible that the Supreme Court judgement in the case brought by Unison will drive the process forward. It is of note that in Scotland the Scottish Government has pledged to abolish Tribunal fees once the power to do so is available to them.