Tribunal claimants less likely to proceed thanks to fees, survey finds

Tribunal fees

A Government-commissioned survey of the employment tribunal system has found that around half of claimants would reconsider proceeding with their claim if forced to pay a fee.

The 2013 Survey of Employment Tribunal Application (SETA), the first since 2008, interviewed around 2,000 employers and 2,000 employees on what they were seeking from the tribunal and the outcomes of their cases.

Although the claims covered in the SETA survey were not subject to the new fees regime, which requires claimants to pay up to £250 to make an application to the tribunal courts and a further fee once the claim has been listed, participants were asked whether having to pay a fee would influence their decision to go ahead with a claim.

Just under half (49%) of respondents said this would have influenced their decision, with younger claimants between the ages of 20 and 34 more likely to reconsider. Claimants in lower paid jobs, or with temporary contracts, were also more likely to say a fee would influence how they proceeded, compared to those with higher salaries or a permanent role.

When asked how they would have met the £250 cost, most respondents said they would have paid it out of their own personal income, while one in six would have borrowed it from friends or family.

SETAs findings are borne out by quarterly statistics from the Tribunals Service, which found that – in the period from October to December 2013 – there were 79% fewer tribunal claims received than in the same period in 2012.

In total, an offer of settlement was made in 68% of cases, and this resulted in settlement in four-fifths of those cases. In most cases, it was the employer who made the first offer of settlement.

The other key findings of SETA were:

  • 17% of all claims went to a full tribunal hearing.
  • 72% of claims were brought against private sector employers.
  • 92% of those who brought claims in 2013 were no longer working with the employer.
  • The proportion of cases where a formal meeting took place prior to a claim being submitted rose slightly from 2007, from 33% to 39%, despite the repeal of statutory dispute regulations during that period.
  • The majority of claimants (59%) had personal contact with someone from ACAS during the claim process.
  • Claims made in respect of wages disputes were more likely to be settled than those in respect of redundancy.
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