In the year to June 2013 the employment tribunal service received 191,541 cases. The latest statistics from the Ministry of Justice show that for the financial year 2015/16 the number of claims raised was just 83,031. That’s a reduction of nearly 60%.
The fee regime has been the subject of unsuccessful challenges before the courts. Unison has a hearing in the Supreme Court in December appealing the Court of Appeal's decision to dismiss their challenge to the introduction of fees in England and Wales. Similar proceedings are currently on hold in Scotland pending this decision. The results of a post implementation review of the introduction of fees by the Ministry of Justice is still awaited and the recent Justice Committee report on tribunal fees concluded that the fees had "an unacceptable impact on access to justice" and recommended that they be substantially reduced.
In Scotland the issue has, to some extent, been put to bed by the Scottish Government's promise to abolish Tribunal fees albeit no date has been set for this yet.
That said, this year has actually seen the number of claims increasing for the first time since fees were introduced. The low of 61,308 claims in 2014/2015 has jumped by 21,723.
However, the headline figures do not necessarily tell the whole story. The number of cases may be impacted by the number of holiday pay claims - the other hot topic in employment law over the past couple of years - that are being made. Given the way the law relating to the calculation of holiday pay is developing, potential claimants may be more confident of success than they would be when making other types of claim and therefore more likely to take the risk of paying the fee. Many holiday pay claimants may also be backed by unions.
This year's figures though are still very significantly lower than those from the pre fees era which peaked in 2009/2010 with 236,103 claims.
One of the aims of the introduction of fees was to reduce the number of vexatious claims. Evidence given to the Justice Committee suggests that this has not been achieved. The Council of Employment Judges said in written evidence that "misguided but determined litigants remain undeterred by fees".