Justice Committee reviews impact of ET fees
Friday 22nd July 2016
The House of Commons Justice Committee has warned that those unfairly dismissed by their employers are being denied access to justice as a result of the introduction of ET fees. The Committee concluded that major changes are needed to restore access to the ET system, following a decline of almost 70 per cent in the number of cases brought, believing the majority of the decline to be attributable to the introduction of fees.
ET fees were intended to transfer some of the costs of the ET system away from the tax payer, encourage alternative dispute resolution but still maintain access to justice. It was also hoped that fees would reduce the number of weak and vexatious claims. After hearing a substantial amount of evidence, the Committee concluded that there had been a significant adverse impact on access to justice and that fees provided employers with little incentive to pursue alternative dispute resolution where the claimant may have difficulty raising the fee.
The Committee considered that an element of financial risk for those considering legal action was important and that a contribution to operating costs was not, in principle, objectionable. However, the Committee was clear that as a matter of public policy where there is a choice between income from fees and providing access to justice, the latter must prevail. The Committee recognised that making changes to the fee structure would have cost implications, but noted that an increase in claims would result in additional fees.
The Committee recommended that:
- the Government should immediately publish the factual information collated as part of its own review.
- the overall level of ET fees charged for bringing claims should be substantially reduced.
- the type A / type B distinction between claims should be replaced.
- fee remission thresholds should be increased with no more than one fee remission application required.
- special consideration should be given to the position of women alleging maternity or pregnancy discrimination.
- any changes implemented should be subject to continued review.
All information in this update is intended for general guidance only and is not intended to be comprehensive, or to provide legal advice.