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Huge Drop in Tribunal Claims after Fees Introduced says Solicitors Journal

Industry: Legal Services

A large drop has been recorded in employment tribunal claims since the introduction of fees.

United Kingdom (PRUnderground) March 24th, 2014

In the latest employment law news, there has been a 79% drop in tribunals since fees were introduced. The drop is being attributed directly to the new fees that were introduced recently, with the reduction taking place in the final quarter of 2013. There were 9,801 claims received by tribunals in Q4 2013, a figure 75% down on the previous quarter and 79% down on Q4 2012.

The new fees mean that an unhappy employee now has to pay as much as £1,200 in order to bring case for discrimination or unfair dismissal forward. It’s said that the months leading up to the fees being introduced saw a sharp rise in tribunals, with many individuals keen to get their claims in before the charges were put in place.

CONCERN AMONGST LAWYERS

Some law firms have said that the cases that are still being brought forward are significantly more complex than before. Other factors for the decrease in tribunals have been cited. For instance, the qualification period for an unfair dismissal case to be brought forward is now two years. Equal pay claims have also reduced in numbers, with changes having been made to the unfair dismissal compensation cap too.

Experts are showing concern about this trend, saying may discourage those with genuine claims from coming forward to get the justice that they deserve, as well as having significant repercussions for the entire legal industry. The Justice Minister Shailesh Vara said that the taxpayer should not be forced to foot the bill for tribunals that “escalate workplace disputes”. He said that the government was encouraging individuals to engage in what she called “quicker, simpler and cheaper alternatives like mediation and arbitration”.

Vara predicts that claim numbers will rise again in time but not to the same extent as previously. He recommends that cases such as unpaid wages are taken to county courts. He also claimed that drawn out disputes can not only damage business but have a negative emotional impact on workers too.

RISK-TAKING?

It’s predicted that Citizen’s Advice Bureaus and voluntary agencies are likely to bear the brunt of the downtrend rather than law firms. Some fear that those with genuine cases but a significant lack of money will decide not to take action. Many law professionals are urging the government to take steps to make it easier for vulnerable workers to push forward with cases, claiming that those with a small amount of unpaid wages may not wish to take the risk and pay the issue and hearing fee of £1,200, particularly if that figure dwarves the sum that they are owed.

The Ministry of Justice said that fewer multiple claims against a single employer had dropped alongside single claims but that the data in question should be approached with “extreme caution” due to the methods used to collect it. The trade union Unison last year said that the “unfair” fees would make it harder for workers to get justice. Before the latest legal news was announced, the High Court argued that the real impact of the fees would not be assessable for some time.

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