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Don't reintroduce tribunal fees

Don't make us pay for justice at work! Employment Tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal should remain free for all. 

Why is this important?

The government is planning to re-introduce employment tribunal fees. That means any worker who wants to enforce their employment rights or appeal to tribunal would have to pay! Employment tribunals give workers the ability to challenge injustice at work - this shouldn't come at a price.

Reintroducing tribunal fees will make it even harder for working people to seek justice if they face discrimination, unfair dismissal or withheld wages. And it will disproportionately affect pregnant workers, disabled workers and migrant workers, who are more likely to face injustice at work

Take action today

The government wants to restrict access to justice by making workers pay to take an employment tribunal against bad bosses… but the fight isn’t over. The government is consulting about whether to implement employment tribunal fees and how much they should charge. If we flood the consultation response with personal stories and reasons why access to justice should remain free for all, we can force them to U-turn. 

We need the government to hear from workers in their own words about the importance of keeping employment tribunals free for all. With the public consultation only open until 25th March, we need as many people as possible to make the case for keeping employment tribunals free for all. Use the tool below to write about your experience of the tribunal process or explain why you think reintroducing fees is a threat to justice at work.

You don't need to write a lot! Just a few sentences about why it's so important to you that employment tribunals remain free for all. The more personal your email, the more impact you'll have! 

See below for more arguments against reintroducing employment tribunal fees.

Not sure where to start? Try covering the following questions in your email:

  • Have you or someone you know been through an employment tribunal before? If so, how did it go?
  • Do you think that charging a fee will prevent workers from seeking justice over bad employers?
  • Why do you think it's important that employment tribunals should remain free for all?
  • If you're a workplace rep, how do you think employment tribunal fees would affect your members?
  • If you encountered a problem at work, would your personal circumstances mean it would be difficult to find an additional £55 to bring a claim?

Fees are unaffordable

One look at current economic landscape, it's evident that the government's proposal to impose a £55 fee for employment tribunals and the employment appeal tribunal will not be affordable.

Workers are still in the middle of the longest pay squeeze in living memory - with average weekly earnings still £12 lower than they were in 2008, and not expected to get back to that level until 2028.  

Citizens Advice analysis shows that more than 2.1 million households are in a negative budget. That’s 5 million people - including 1.5 million children - who are in households that can’t afford basic essentials and are at risk of being pushed into debt.  

The latest data shows 14.4 million are in poverty, with 7.8 million (54 per cent) of these living in a working household. The number of people in poverty living in a working household has increased by 1.5 million since 2010. 

Government is out of touch

Introducing fees is a clear sign that this government is out of touch with the everyday struggles of working families. 

The government’s own consultation document acknowledges that introducing fees may cause claims to decrease by 20 per cent: 

Although our intention is not to impact demand through these proposals, income estimates are sensitive to volumes and it is difficult to know how the introduction of a fee, along with other factors, could affect the volume of applications to the ET. Therefore, a reduction of 20% to the volumes has been applied to calculate the lower income estimate.”  

The TUC believes that certain groups of workers will be disproportionately adversely affected by the introduction of fees, meaning the new fees could be discriminatory. For example, pregnant women and new mothers who will struggle even more during a cost-of-living crisis. Charging fees for employment tribunal claims puts the justice system out of reach for women at a time when they are most in need of protection. Lower financial value claims may also be impacted as well. Pregnant workers seeking to enforce their right to paid time off for ante-natal appointments might be dissuaded from bringing a claim when the financial award would be lower than the cost of the fee. 

Fees would also present an additional barrier that could stop many migrant workers enforcing their employment rights. Many already face huge hurdles including short term visas (meaning there isn’t time for their claim to be heard in tribunal), limited finances due to wage theft, lack of familiarity with employment laws and language barriers.

Instead of repeating its unlawful behaviour the government should address the systemic flaws in our labour market enforcement system: 

  • We have a chronically under resourced labour market enforcement system. There are not enough labour market inspectors to proactively enforce employment rights.  
  • There are lengthy delays in the employment tribunal system, with some claimants having to wait years to have their case heard. This is particularly problematic for migrant workers who are only in the country on six-month visas. This puts pressure on claimants to abandon claims. 
  •  The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) devastated the legal aid system when it came into force on 1 April 2013. People can no longer get help with many employment problems.  
  • Lack of enforcement of employment tribunal awards. A study carried out by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, shortly before the introduction of fees in 2013, found that only 53 per cent of claimants who were successful before the ET were paid even part of the award prior to taking enforcement action (“Payment of Tribunal Awards”, 2013).  

However, instead of addressing these longstanding issues, the government is proposing to introduce another restriction on working people’s right to access justice. 

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