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The Price of Justice

The impact of Employment Tribunal fees on CAB clients in Scotland

This report presents findings from a collaborative research project between the University of Strathclyde and Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) into the views of Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB) advisers within Scotland on the impact of Employment Tribunal (ET) fees.

Fees payable by workers to take their case to the ET were introduced on 29 July 2013. These are charged at two levels depending on the nature of the claim and are payable at two stages—on lodging the claim and before the hearing itself. The total costs for going to full hearing are: Type A claims (including unpaid wages) £390 and Type B claims (including unfair dismissal and discrimination claims) £1,200. Remission from fees is available in limited circumstances.

One year on from the introduction of fees, data from the Ministry of Justice reveals that there was an 81% decline in the number of cases lodged in the ET for the period January to March 2014 compared with that same quarter in 2013.

We wanted to understand the ways in which the ET fees, and its associated fee remission system, have impacted on clients of CAB. To do this we sought the perspective of CAB advisers within Scotland, particularly those who focus on employment problems. We undertook an online survey of these advisers and two focus groups. This report details our findings. These relate, firstly, to CAB clients liable to pay full or partial ET fees and, secondly, to CAB clients eligible for fee remission.

Key Findings

Those making a claim to the Employment Tribunal (ET) fall into two broad categories: those who have to pay the fee and those who qualify for remission from the fee and so do not have to pay. Both categories of claimants experienced difficulties although these differed depending on payment status.

  • For CAB clients liable for paying full or partial fees:
  • Fees act as a disincentive for CAB clients to make a claim in the ET
  • The merit of a claim is not the key driver in deciding to take a claim to the ET: the decision has become a financial one
  • ET fees negatively alter the power balance between workers and employers
  • The fees have created additional difficulties for CAB advisers bringing an increased responsibility to the often voluntary role, and increased stress

For CAB clients eligible for fee remission:

  • The flux in a client’s financial situation makes determining eligibility for remission complex
  • Providing the evidence required for remission is often difficult as a result of a client’s situation
  • Determining eligibility for remission at two points in time can leave clients in an unpredictable situation and penalise clients who manage to find other employment before the case makes it to a hearing
  • Group claims are sometimes compromised when some of the group qualify for remission and others do not
Lauren Wood, Emily Rose and Eleanor Kirk
Publication date
March 2015
Publication type