Since the government’s reforms of employment tribunal legislation curbing employment rights in 2013, the trade unions have challenged them through a series of judicial reviews. These reviews have either been dismissed or parked due to lack of evidence or being too early to comment.
The government’s own review of court and tribunal fees was concluded in 2015 but publication has been delayed, deliberately slowed up.
Now the House of Commons Justice Committee has published its own report on court and tribunal fees – and it is scathing in its analysis of the government’s position.
The report finds that the TUC and Unison presented accurate evidence showing how the introduction of fees has cut the number of cases by around 70 per cent. It says the government’s argument that cases have declined because of the ACAS early conciliation service is “even on the most favourable construction, superficial”.
Fees “have had a significant adverse impact on access to justice for meritorious claims”, according to the report, and the level of fees should be “substantially reduced”. The fees system has also discriminated against pregnant women, as employment tribunals arising from pregnancy have dropped by 40 per cent.
Evidence taken from senior judiciary figures commenting on the Ministry of Justice research into the impact of fees described them as “lamentable” (Master of the Rolls); “insignificant” (Chair of the Bar Council); and “poor” (President of the Law Society).