Tribunal fees rewarding bad bosses and pricing out claimants, says TUC

30 July 2014 -


Women and the vulnerable are biggest losers since charges for employment proceedings were introduced in July 2013, union’s research shows

Jermaine Haughton

Employment tribunal fees have been a “huge victory” for Britain’s worst bosses, according to the TUC. In the organisation’s latest report At What Price Justice?, the union finds that women and low-paid workers have been the worst affected by a 79% drop in the overall number of claims since the fees – which can be as high as £1,200 – came in one year ago.

There has been an 80% decline in the number of women pursuing sex-discrimination claims, with just 1,222 women issuing claims between January and March 2014, compared to 6,017 for the same period in 2013. Meanwhile, the number of women pursuing pregnancy-related discrimination claims is down by 26%.

Race and disability claims have also fallen significantly, as shown by a 60% fall in claims for racial and homophobic forms of discrimination in the first quarter of 2014, compared to the same period of the previous year. In addition, disability claims have experienced a 46% year-on-year reduction.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Employment tribunal fees have been a huge victory for Britain’s worst bosses. By charging upfront fees for harassment and abuse claims, the government has made it easier for bad employers to get away with the most appalling behaviour. Tribunal fees are part of a wider campaign to get rid of workers’ basic rights. The consequence has been to price low-paid and vulnerable people out of justice.”

Tribunal fees, claims the report, have also left many low-paid workers cheated out of their rightful pay – with a 70% fall in workers pursuing claims for non-receipt of the national minimum wage. That’s alongside an 85% drop in claims for unpaid wages and holiday pay. Those substantial falls have been attributed to the cost of raising a complaint often being worth more than the sum owed to the worker – a conclusion amplified by the finding that just 24% of workers who applied for financial assistance to make claims received any form of remittance. As if that were not enough of an impediment, the report also highlighted the problem that minimum-wage workers face fees of up to £1,200 if a member of their household has £3,000 of savings.

Justice minister Shailesh Vara defended tribunal fees as being the most effective and efficient method of concluding claims quickly and easing the burden on the taxpayer. “It is in everyone's interest to avoid drawn-out disputes which emotionally damage workers and financially damage businesses,” he said. “That's why we are encouraging quicker, simpler and free alternatives such as the early conciliation service provided by ACAS.”

He added: “It is not fair for the taxpayer to foot the entire £74m bill for people to escalate workplace disputes to a tribunal, and it is not unreasonable to expect people who can afford to do so to make a contribution. For those who cannot afford to pay, full fee waivers are available.”

Find a PDF of the full TUC report here.

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