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[Closed] MS-15 Employment Tribunal Fees Repeal

Sylviane Jaubert
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Mr. Speaker, 

Today I rise to announce that the government will be repealing “The Employment Tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal Fees Order 2013”. These fees were introduced in July 2013, with the following rationale, and here I will quote the government policy of the time. “Firstly, a fees mechanism will help to transfer some of the cost burden from general taxpayers to those that use the system, or cause the system to be used.”, “Secondly, a price mechanism could help to incentivise earlier settlements, and to disincentivise unreasonable behaviour, like pursuing weak or vexatious claims.” “Thirdly, and more generally, the courts have for some time charged fees for family and civil disputes… Therefore, introducing a fees system will bring the Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal into line with other similar parts of justice system”. The government of the time also stated that “This approach helps allocate use of goods or services in a rational way because it prevents waste through excessive or badly targeted consumption. Providing access to justice is not the same as providing other ‘goods’ or ‘services’. But charging fees for tribunal cases and appeals has the potential to play a central role in our strategy to modernise and streamline the employment dispute resolution system” this approach referring to implementing a fee for employment tribunals. Then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice stated in the relevant committee that “Fees are not intended to deter individuals from bringing a claim, and nor do we believe they will, given the remissions system.”

Now Mr. Speaker, I would like to address the points of the government of the time and respond to how effective these fees were to address these issues. The first point was about removing some of the cost burden of these courts from general taxpayers to those who use the system and frankly this may be the only point where this policy achieved the intention, reducing costs of these tribunals. This policy was so successful in fact that the net spending on tribunals has fallen by 41 percent but Mr. Speaker fees are not the reason why we have seen this reduction because the way fees were implemented was flawed from the beginning. The Council of Employment Judges states and I’d like to quote : “…the claims which are the least costly to the public purse are the short, single money and unfair dismissal complaints; long multi-day cases are the most costly but the hearing fee is the same whether it is a one day unfair dismissal claim or a twenty day discrimination or whistle-blowing claim. It is the latter types of case that predominate since fees, meritorious or otherwise.” 

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately these savings have not been achieved by fees and we have further evidence indicating that. The net spending in 2013/13 was 86.7 million and in 2015/16 it was 57.3 million, unfortunately only 8.6 million of this reduction came from the fees, 20.8 million of these savings came from reduced case load, which is around 70 percent of the savings. 

Mr. Speaker, the second point was about disincentivising unreasonable behaviour and vexatious claims. The Council of Employment Judges stated that in the experience of Employment Judges, and I am quoting right now: “Fees have had no impact on weeding out weak claims: if they had done so the number of claims succeeding in front of EJs would have increased significantly.  EJs’ experience is that misguided but determined litigants remain undeterred by fees.” When we look at the statistics there has been no trend that can be interpreted as an increase in successful claims which would be the natural result, if the fees, disincentivised unreasonable behaviour and vexatious claims. 

And finally, the third point, justice. Mr. Speaker, we have seen around 70 percent reduction in case presented to employment tribunals that is directly tied to these fees and no trend indicating a reduction in vexatious claims, Mr. Speaker, this indicates that the fees are preventing access to justice in a very significant way and therefore fails the third point and the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice’s statement. The remission system is complex, time consuming and frankly not working at all. 

Mr. Speaker, the fee policy has failed our country and our workers. It has created an injustice that needs to be addressed immediately that is why the government will repeal The Employment Tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal Fees Order 2013 and Mr. Speaker the government is also will be taking action to return the fees collected so far with interest. So far 27 million in fees has been collected and today, the government is pledging that we will return these fees that should have never been collected in the first place. 

Sylviane Jaubert MP
MP for Cynon Valley

Formerly as The Rt Hon Ariadne "Ari" Suchet MP
Former Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party

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Speaker Harman

I thank the Secretary of State for her statement. The House will now move on to other business.

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