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Employment tribunal fees ‘barrier’ to justice in human rights cases, say MPs

Employment tribunal fees were ‘a barrier to victims seeking justice when they have suffered human rights abuses’, according to an influential group of MPs. The House of Commons’ joint committee on human rights have added their collective voice to the justice and equalities committees in calling on the Government to cut the charges introduced in 2013.

A new report from the committee, Human Rights and Business 2017 quotes the Equality and Human Rights Commission which expressed its concern ‘about the substantial drop in workplace discrimination cases’ following the introduction of fees. ‘This is particularly marked for cases involving discrimination on the basis of sex, disability, race and sexual orientation, and cases on equal pay and unfair dismissal,’ the group said. ‘Given that over four-fifths of claimants for sex discrimination and equal pay cases are women, the introduction of tribunal fees has had a disproportionate impact on this group.’

The Equality Commission flagged up Ministry of Justice (MoJ) statistics which revealed a 43% drop in race discrimination claims and a 64% in religion or belief discrimination claims.

The justice minister Sir Oliver Heald assured MPs that the policy ‘worked in the way that we intended it to, which was, first, that we would recover some money to help with the costs of running the tribunals and we recovered about the amount that we expected’. ‘Secondly, we wanted to improve the take-up of conciliation,’ he added.

The MoJ argued that the introduction of fees alongside the introduction of ACAS’s early conciliation service had ‘led to a dramatic shift in the way that employment related disputes are dealt with’ and this was ‘helping many more people to resolve their workplace disputes while avoiding the stress and cost of the tribunal’.

The human rights committee report quoted the conclusion of fellow MPs on the justice committee in their inquiry into court and tribunal fees saying the MoJ’s logic was ‘even on the most favourable construction, superficial’. The report also quoted the finding of the women and equalities committee which had called for ‘a substantial reduction in tribunal fees for discrimination cases’.

‘We join the Commons Justice and Women and Equalities Committees in calling on the Government to reduce employment tribunal fees. These, it is clear to us, are a barrier to victims seeking justice when they have suffered human rights abuses, including discrimination, at the hands of their employers and offer impunity for employers abusing human rights.’
House of Commons’ joint committee on human rights

About Jon Robins

Jon is a journalist and has written about the law and justice for the national papers and specialist press for more than 15 years. Jon is a visiting journalism lecturer at Winchester University, a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln and patron of Hackney Community Law Centre. He has won the Bar Council’s legal reporter of the year award twice (2015 and 2005). Jon is editor and co-founder of LegalVoice

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