We reported to you back in February that a bid by the trade union UNISON to quash the introduction of tribunal fees had failed, after High Court judges ruled that there was insufficient evidence to suggest the fees were unfair.
In May, UNISON was granted permission to appeal that decision. Accordingly, the Court of Appeal who has stated that the issue is of “sufficient general importance to merit permission to appeal”, will now consider whether the UNISON challenge that the introduction of fees would deny access to justice for workers treated unfairly by employers and would therefore be unlawful, and that introduction of fees has a disproportionate impact on women.
Previously the High Court appeared to accept the union's argument, but ruled that because the fees were introduced last year, the full impact could not be judged.
UNISON has stated that it will ask the Court of Appeal to consider the ‘shocking’ quarterly tribunal statistics for the three months to 31 December 2013, which revealed a 79% decrease in the number of Employment Tribunal claims received when compared with same period in the previous year.
A further factor that may be taken into account is the recent statistic which shows that between 29 July 2013 - when the fees came into force - and 31 December 2013, a mere 24% of all remissions applications were granted by the Employment Tribunal.
It should also be noted that this figure includes remissions that were granted only in part.
This statistic is concerning as it accounts for just 5.5% of all claims submitted to the Employment Tribunal during the relevant period. On introduction of the fees regime last year, it was originally anticipated that 31% of claimants would be eligible for fee remissions but the latest figures significantly depart from that.
There have been suggestions that delays within the fee remission system are, at least in part, the explanation for the dramatic drop in Employment Tribunal claims.
Figures for Tribunal claims lodged between January and March 2014 are expected to be released later this month and we will wait with baited breath to hear whether there continues to be a dramatic fall in claims being brought so watch this space!