The introduction of employment tribunal fees has contributed to a 73% fall in tribunal claims, new research from the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) reveals today.
Since the coalition government introduced employment tribunal fees of up to £1,200 last year, figures suggest that the number of claims brought against employers dropped by 73% between October 2013 to March 2014, on the same period the previous year.
Citizens Advice claim that the new fees are deterring employees from bringing forward legitimate claims against employers and are allowing bosses to get away with “unlawful sackings and withholding wages”.
An analysis of 182 employment cases brought to the CAB between June and July 2014 found that only 31% of potentially successful claims were likely to proceed to tribunal. In over half of cases people said that employment tribunal fees, and other costs, were deterring them from taking their case forward.
The analysis also found that a quarter of employment claims worth less than £1,000 were not pursued and a fifth of all claims were based upon alleged employer discrimination.
CAB say that unfair dismissals, withholding wages and holiday pay were the most common reasons given by workers for considering legal action against employers.
The charity has witnessed a 42% rise in people visiting its website seeking employment advice and employment tribunal searches are up 54% on last year. This comes as people say they are fearful of retribution and losing their job if they take legal action against their employer.
A case study included as part of the research tells the story of a kitchen porter known as Jack. The CAB say that Jack was denied £300 holiday pay he was entitled to and sought assistance from the charity. Jack was advised that because his partner was working he would not qualify for remission of the Employment tribunal fees. On being informed that taking his case forward would cost £390 in tribunal fees, Jack understandably decided that it would not be ‘cost-effective’ to continue with the claim.
Gillian Guy, Citizens Advice chief executive, said:
“Employers are getting away with unlawful sackings and withholding wages. People with strong employment claims are immediately defeated by high costs and fees.
“The risk of not being paid, even if successful, means for many the Employment Tribunal is just not an option. The cost of a case can sometimes be more than the award achieved and people can’t afford to fight on principle anymore.
“Citizens Advice wants to see a fair and robust review of the Employment Tribunal system to make it work for all people and employment abuses eradicated.”