Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable has ordered his officials to investigate whether employment tribunal fees are a barrier to justice.
The move has come after repeated private requests for a review, including petitions made at the cabinet table and in the corridors of Westminster palace, went unanswered by the Ministry of Justice.
The Ministry of Justice’s failure to respond to the Lib Dems’ calls, despite previous assurances that a review would come a year after implementation of the policy, has motivated Vince Cable to write to the Justice Secretary announcing his own inquiry. In a letter to Chris Grayling Vince Cable said that the quid pro quo of his party supporting the Conservative proposal to introduce the fees was that there would be a review within a year of their introduction. He said that a review needed to be conducted immediately and that he had instructed his officials to carry out such a review based on the publicly available information. It is anticipated that the report will be published within a few weeks.
Employment tribunal fees were introduced in July 2013. Figures published by the Ministry of Justice have shown a dramatic fall in the number of cases at employment tribunals since then. The introduction of fees was broadly welcomed by employers, who reportedly face average costs of £8,500 each time a case is brought. But they have also been branded “a barrier to justice” by organisations representing employees. Fees are currently set at either £160 or £250 to lodge a claim followed by a hearing fee of £230 or £950 (depending on the type of claim).
Vince Cable’s report now looks to be published in the weeks leading up to the general election and will presumably inform his party’s manifesto position on access to justice. The Conservatives will also face opposition on the subject of fees from the Labour Party which has indicated that it may scrap the fee system should they return to power this year.