Access to justice damaged by courts and tribunals fees changes
A damning report published by the House of Commons Justice Committee has criticised the Government for failing to publish its own review on the impact of the introduction of tribunal fees.The Committee concluded in its report that the introduction of fees has had a substantial impact on access to justice.It also found that rather than increasing the chances of parties reaching an early resolution of a dispute there was a significant amount of evidence to suggest that the introduction of fees was having quite the opposite effect. This was largely due to the fact that an employer was less likely to settle a case in the belief that a claim was unlikely to be issued against them as a result of a claimant having difficulty raising the issue and hearing fees which can amount to £1200 in some cases.In its report, the Committee made a number of recommendations including (a) a reduction in the level of fees (b) a change to the structure of fees including a number of alternative options one being fees being proportionate to the value of the claim (c) an increase to the thresholds applicable when applying for a fee remission (to enable more claimants to bring a claim who are presently prevented from doing so due to not having sufficient funds) and (d) reviewing the 3 month time limit for women bringing claims relating to maternity or pregnancy related discrimination.Since the introduction of fees there has been a reduction of more than 70% in claims being issued in the tribunal. There have been a number of attempts to challenge their introduction through judicial reviews which have been unsuccessful to date. In light of the Committee’s findings there may be changes but significantly there is no call for them to be removed altogether. From an employer’s perspective this means that the reduced risk of claims is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.