Employers split over impact of employment tribunal fees, says CIPD

Are employment tribunal fees restricting access to justice? Photo: Alex Segre/REX
Are employment tribunal fees restricting access to justice? Photo: Alex Segre/REX

Employers are split as to whether or not the introduction of employment tribunal fees has been a good thing, according to new research by the CIPD.

A thin majority (38%) of employers feel that the current system should be left as it is, despite the fact that there has been a 70% reduction in claims since employment tribunal fees were introduced in 2013.

Slightly fewer organisations (36%) believe that fees should either be significantly reduced or abolished altogether, while just over a quarter are undecided about the impact of fees, the survey of 1,000 employers revealed.

Responding to the CIPD’s findings, business secretary Vince Cable has now put in place a review of the fees regime.

He said: “It is vital that the employment tribunal system strikes the right balance between employee and employer protection. The fact that employers are so split over whether the introduction of tribunal fees has been a good or bad thing further reinforces the need for a review, despite opposition in some quarters.”

Since last July, workers wishing to bring a claim to tribunal are charged an “issue fee” of up to £250 when a claim is lodged, and a “hearing fee” that is payable before the case is heard, which can be up to £950.

Last year, Unison lost its second High Court bid to overturn the new regime, after its assessment of the drop in claims was deemed “speculative” by the judge. It has now appealed to the Supreme Court, but judges are yet to decide if a third attempt to overturn the regime can go ahead.

It’s unlikely that the current fees regime will survive the general election in May by many months as all three major political parties have indicated an intention to review it.” – Mike Emmott, CIPD

Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna has also pledged that Labour will conduct a thorough review of the fees regime if it gets into power in May.

Mike Emmott, the CIPD’s employee relations adviser, said: “It’s unlikely that the current fees regime will survive the general election in May by many months as all three major political parties have indicated an intention to review it.”

He added: “Assuming that fees survive in some shape or form, it will be important to get the balance right between having a fee structure that is simple to understand and one that is proportionate to the type of claim being made.”

The CIPD’s research also found that employers are increasingly finding alternative ways to deal with conflict in order to avoid tribunal claims; around half are training managers to handle “difficult conversations”.

Just under a quarter of employers use internal mediation through a trained member of staff, while almost one in 10 use external mediators to help manage conflict, the CIPD found.

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