In the summer of 2017 the Supreme Court ruled that Employment Tribunal fees restricted access to justice and were unlawful (R (on the application of Unison) v Lord Chancellor  UKSC 51). ACAS has now published its statistics covering the period from April to December 2017 and they show a significant jump in both ACAS Early Conciliation notifications and Employment Tribunal claims.
Before the Supreme Court’s decision employees faced a significant financial obstacle when pursuing an Employment Tribunal claim all the way to a hearing. For example, unless you qualified for fee remission, an ordinary claim for unfair dismissal involved an issue fee of £250 and a hearing fee of £950. This meant that someone who had just lost their job was looking at a bill for £1,200 to pursue a claim which was not guaranteed to succeed. Following the Supreme Court’s decision the Government acted quickly to abolish fees and while the flood gates have not opened more claims are being pursued.
ACAS reports that from the end of August 2017 ACAS Early Conciliation notifications have increased by 25% and Employment Tribunal claims have increased by 57% when compared to the same period in 2016.
It should be noted that given the nature of certain long running disputes and group claims whether the headline statics properly reflect the reality of the situation is not always clear. The abolition of Employment Tribunal fees made the news but it takes time to filter down to the workforce and become common knowledge. As to the true impact of the abolition of Employment Tribunal fees and whether this or a future Government will seek to reintroduce them in one form or another only time will tell.