Denying the impact of a massive hike in employment tribunal fees is nothing short of a wilful attempt by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to ignore the tens of thousands of people left unable to assert their workplace rights, the Law Society of England and Wales said today.
"The employment tribunal has had a vital role to play in helping people uphold their rights at work," said Law Society president Robert Bourns.
"In the face of plummeting numbers of cases going to the tribunal, falling settlement rates, and thousands of people saying they could not take their cases to the tribunal due to high fees, only by being wilfully blind can the government claim 'no evidence' that fees are stopping people enforcing their rights."
Responding to the MoJ consultation on employment tribunal fees, the Society highlighted the staggering fall in employment claims since the fees were introduced.
Figures accepted by the MoJ identified an estimated 14,000 people per year who unsuccessfully tried conciliation for their employment dispute but were then unable to take their case to the tribunal due to the fees.
"With employment tribunal cases having fallen by around 70% immediately after the fees were introduced, these 14,000 people are the tip of the iceberg," said Robert Bourns.
"Tens of thousands of other cases have simply disappeared from the system, to be written off by the government as somehow unmeritorious or unworthy, adds insult to injury for those whose employment rights have been ignored.
"The solutions the government now proposes are little more than tinkering around the edges, which can never address the tens of thousands of individual workers effectively barred by these fees from protecting their rights.
"If the government is genuine about workers being able to defend their rights at work it must restore access to the employment tribunal. This means removing oppressive fees, to ensure that justice is there for those who need it."
Notes to editors
Read the Law Society's consultation response
All figures cited are drawn from the MoJ's employment tribunal fees consultation document - see in particular page 77, which details the drop in employment tribunal cases, and page 83, which sets out the number of claimants prevented from accessing the tribunal by fees.
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