An announcement by The Trade Unions Congress (TUC) has detailed how the number of UK workers actively reporting acts of discrimination and unfair dismissal in the workplace has dropped by a large margin since it was ruled in 2013 that claimants must pay mandatory tribunal fees. The statistics produced by TUC shows the total number of claimants has dropped to an average of 7,000 a month compared to the monthly average of 16,000 recorded beforehand the change just three years ago.
Although many legal observers fully expected to see a large drop in claims occurring, the scale of the decrease is far larger than was generally expected and has led to further calls by TUC to axe the fee system.
Ahead of the Autumn Statement, TUC’s General Secretary Frances O’Grady has derided how the need for payment has shortchanged workers. She remarked that workers are “being priced out of justice” and she is encouraging Theresa May to follow through on her promise to govern Britain under a fair employment law system that will continue throughout her timr as Prime Minister. O’Grady was quoted as calling the fee system May’s: “first real practical test’ and that she should ‘scrap those fees and ensure that all workers have access to justice.”
The TUC is not the only organisation expressing outrage at the current fee system. As recently as June 2016 the Justice Select Committee spoke of how negotiation is desperately needed to establish a fair financial solution to the employment tribunals fee situation . Finding such a solution is long overdue, and in response to the committee, TUC issued a reminder that the Justice Select Committee were due to has still not issued their report into the effect of tribunal fees which was due by the end of 2015. The committee responded by stating that the report will be produced soon.
The current fee system dictates that all claimants, even those on minimum wage, have to pay the required costs as long as close family member of theirs possesses a savings account totaling at least £3,000. This payment is a mandatory requirement regardless of the required regardless of the Help with Fees plan that the government put in place in 2015 in a bid to reduce the cost for claimants with lower incomes.
Frances O’Grady asserts that the fee system constitutes clear evidence that UK workers are being oppressed: “These fees of up to £1,200, even if you’re on the minimum wage, are pricing out thousands each month from pursuing cases.”
The Ministry of Justice has challenged TUC’s report, reminding them that the fee system was implemented as a response against the £71 costs that tribunal cases were costing the UK taxpayer each year, many of which were regularly proven to be fraudulent.
The figures from TUC detail the extent of the decline since fees were originally introduced in 2013. Tribunal cases involving acts of sex discrimination have dropped 71%, and race discrimination reports have gone down 58%. Additionally, reports of disability discrimination have dropped 54%, and cases on the grounds of unfair dismissal have seen a 73% drop at tribunal.
These declines are certainly not due to improvements in the UK workplace. It’s the result of victims lacking the financial support to speak out; an issue that urgently needs addressing.