Tribunal claims rise after fees abolished

The number of employment tribunal claims in England and Wales went up significantly in the three months after fees were abolished in July this year.

According to figures published by the Courts Service, the number of single claims - for individual grievances such as unfair or wrongful dismissal - jumped 64% between July and October 2017. The number of claims rose from 4,241 between April and June (before the ruling) to 7,042 in the three months between July and October.

It has also emerged that the tribunals' outstanding caseload rose by 37% after London's Supreme Court found that employment tribunal fees were unlawful in July. The number of employment tribunals brought after fees were introduced in 2013 had dropped by about 70%.

Following the ruling, the Ministry of Justice stopped charging fees and opened a fee refund scheme for claimants who had paid fees between July 2013 and July 2017. The Government has so far paid out £1.8m of the expected £33m cost of refunding people who paid unlawful employment tribunal fees.

However, lord chancellor David Lidington told a justice select committee meeting last month that the Government is planning to charge some kind of fee in the future but that it would ensure tribunals are accessible and affordable.

Sybille Steiner, an employment partner at law firm Irwin Mitchell, said: "The statistics demonstrate that workers are again more willing to bring claims to resolve their employment disputes now they don't have to find up to £1,200. The Supreme Court heard convincing evidence that many workers didn't bother to bring claims for unlawful deductions from wages such as being underpaid holiday because the cost of bringing them often exceeded the amount in dispute."

She added: "Attitudes have clearly now changed and we are likely to see increasing numbers of workers willing to bring claims if they cannot resolve disputes directly with their employers."

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