The Government previously made a commitment to review the impact following the introduction of Tribunal fees in 2013. It is perhaps no coincidence that this announcement has been made today as the latest ET statistics which were also published today - Tribunal statistics - show that the total number of Employment Tribunal claims for the period April 2014 to March 2015 was only 61,306. This compares to 105,803 claim for 2013/2014 and, perhaps more significantly, to 191,541 claims for April 2012 to March 2013 which was the last 12 month period during which no fee required to be paid by a claimant in order to raise a claim.
The review is expected to be finished later this year and the Government have said that they will consult on any proposals for reforms to the fees and remission scheme.
Whilst the fee regime reduces the burden on the UK taxpayer and, arguably, is good news from an employer's perspective, it has been argued that this denies access to justice for many employees who have valid claims. It is also worth pointing out that since May 2014, ACAS Early Conciliation has become compulsory and anyone wishing to raise a claim in the Employment Tribunal must first notify ACAS with a view to conciliation taking place. This is also likely to have impacted on the figures but I am in no doubt that the main reason for the dramatic reduction in claims is the ET fee regime which, for an unfair dismissal claim, requires the claimant to pay an issue fee of £250 and a hearing fee of £950.
Two judicial review applications by Unison challenging the fee regime have been unsuccessful albeit Unison were given permission to appeal. The appeal will be heard in the Court of Appeal later this month and it will be interesting to see the outcome.
It is also worth noting that it is intended that certain Tribunal powers in relation to administration and management of Tribunals are expected to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Government has previously voiced their opposition which means that we could end up with a situation where there are no Tribunal fees for claims in Scotland but fees where the claim is raised in England & Wales. This could then result in "forum shopping" whereby claims are raised in Scotland which might otherwise have been raised in England & Wales. At present all that is needed for a claimant to raise a claim is for the employer (or former employer) to have a place of business in the country where the claim is raised. As such, if an employee was employed in, say Leeds, then they could raise a claim in Scotland as long as their employer had a place of business in Scotland.
My own view is that we will see a reduction in the level of Tribunal fees if not this year then certainly next year.