The number of claims accepted at employment tribunals has fallen by 72% since the introduction of tribunal fees, according to law firm Clyde & Co.
More than 12,563 claims were accepted in quarter one of 2015/16, compared with 44,334 in the quarter one period of 2013/14, just before tribunal fees were introduced. In the five years between 2009 and 2013 (inclusive) there were at least 40,000 claims in every quarter, bar one (when there were more than 39,000).
The fees, introduced in July 2013, mean that a claimant must pay up to £950 for their hearing. At the time, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady described the fees as “yet another attack on workers' employment rights”, and warned that they would deter genuine claims.
“Erecting punitive financial barriers is not our idea of fairness,” she said. “The government's remission scheme to protect the lowest paid is woefully inadequate and many of the UK's most vulnerable workers will simply be priced out of justice.”
Charles Urquhart, employment partner at Clyde & Co, said that the fall in tribunal claims is "good news for employers”, but suggests there could be other factors causing the reduction in tribunal cases. "Because of the Acas early conciliation scheme it is impossible to assess what impact the fees regime alone has had on claims," he said.
The Acas early conciliation scheme, introduced in May 2014, allows employers and claimants to reach a settlement without going to court.
Tom Stenner-Evans, an associate in the employment team at law firm Michelmores, suggested that the state of the economy could also be contributing to the lower number of claims, and that employers should prepare for a potential increase in less buoyant times.
“The ease with which someone can walk into another job rather than make a claim for loss of earnings could straight away be an incentive not to litigate,” he told HR magazine.
Stenner-Evans also pointed to a number of class action cases in recent years as another factor misleadingly affecting the accepted claims figure. “There have been a number of examples where groups have been involved in lawsuits, such as working time cases in 2009/10," he said. "This could be distorting the statistics by making the drop look larger than it really is.”