The number of cases coming before employment tribunals has dramatically declined since the introduction of a controversial charging regime. However, the Court of Appeal has urged the Lord Chancellor to carry out a thorough review of a system which many believe is stifling access to justice.
The regime was introduced in 2013 and, whilst those on the lowest incomes do not have to pay, charges have since been levied against others who wish to pursue complaints against their employers. Access to the tribunal system was formerly free and the charges, which amount to thousands of pounds in some cases, have led to a reduction of around 80 per cent in the number of complaints dealt with by tribunals.
Trade union Unison twice mounted unsuccessful judicial review challenges to the regime and, in dismissing its appeal against those decisions, the Court rejected arguments that the charges were discriminatory and made it impossible, or far too difficult, for those who have suffered wrongs to obtain proper redress.
However, the Court noted that a full and careful review of the regime was needed in order to ascertain the cause of the ‘startling’ decline in the number of tribunal cases. The Lord Chancellor had announced a review in June 2015 and the Court observed that the level of fees would have to be revisited if there were grounds for concluding that sections of the working population were realistically unable to afford them.