Scrap employment tribunal fees says Fawcett

Themis and justice

Fees for employment tribunals are excluding women from the justice process and should be scrapped. This is the recommendation from the Fawcett Society in response to the government’s consultation on the fees that were introduced in 2013 to take employment disputes to court. It says that the fees have hit women the hardest and are at odds with the Prime Minister’s stated commitment to close the pay gap between men and women.

The number of sex and pregnancy discrimination claims brought to employment tribunals has collapsed since the introduction of fees. The number of claims, which can cost between £390 and £1,300, has fallen by 79% and the number of sex discrimination claims fell by 80% from 2013, as well as claims on race and disability grounds.

Women tend to have lower incomes on average and are less able to afford the tribunal fees, which they must pay on a sliding scale if they and their partner have more than £3000 in savings. The government’s own survey found that those on temporary contracts and low pay, who are predominantly women, were most likely to be put off pursuing a case if there was a fee.

Chief Executive Sam Smethers says:

“We have legislation to tackle sex discrimination in the workplace, so all women should be able to use it regardless of how much they earn. These fees are undoubtedly putting people off at a time when up to 54,000 women a year could be forced out of their jobs due to pregnancy. The current arrangement denies women the justice they deserve and is harming women’s earnings and future prospects.”

Fawcett also recommends that:

  • Time limits for making a claim on pregnancy discrimination should be doubled from three months to six;
  • There should be more information and understanding of alternative ways to resolve disputes since it is unclear how effective the help other routes, such as Acas, are giving.

The Justice Select Committee is carrying out an inquiry into Courts and tribunals fees and charges, from 27 October 2015.

Read Fawcett’s full submission

Photo credit: Rae Allen

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