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Policy briefing: Employment tribunal fees deny workers access to justice

29 July 2014

Since July 2013 workers with an employment dispute have had to pay fees to take their case to an Employment Tribunal. As a result many people can no longer afford to use the Tribunal to seek justice in employment-related disputes.

Since July 2013 workers with an employment dispute have had to pay fees to take their case to an Employment Tribunal. As a result many people can no longer afford to use the Tribunal to seek justice in employment-related disputes. Between January and March 2014, the number of Employment Tribunal cases lodged fell by 81% compared to the same period in 2013, clearly demonstrating the prohibitive impact that fees are having. A fee waiver scheme for those on low incomes has so far been of little help due to the complexity of the scheme and stringent qualifying conditions.

When workers cannot afford the services of a solicitor to deal with a problem they are facing at work, they will often turn to Citizens Advice Bureaux for assistance. The research project ‘Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB) and Employment Disputes’ has examined how CAB clients, who often have limited financial, cultural and social resources, pursue their employment problems. The research has uncovered personal stories that reveal the often devastating effects of employment tribunal fees on individuals’ lives.

This policy briefing (PDF, 382kB) presents the policy implications of the work of Professor Morag McDermont from the School of Law at the University of Bristol and Professor Nicole Busby of the Law School at the University of Strathclyde. You can also read the press release, listen to Professor McDermont discussing the issue on the BBC's Today programme (interview starts at 24 mins - this will be available for four weeks) and watch Professor Busby on BBC's Scotland 2014 (12.50 mins in - available until 12th August).

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