The number of employment discrimination charges is plunging in the UK, we noted the other day: new Ministry of Justice second quarter 2014 statistics for employment tribunals “show an overall drop in claims of 71% compared with the same period last year.   The attorneys at Just Employment Law say that “Tribunal fees are likely to remain the main reason for the reduction in claims compared with the same quarter last year. …”

fees : Conceptual view of high cost legal fees Stock Photo

What are the fees, anyway?

And could the imposition of tribunal fees result not only in a substantial drop in claims, but also in a greater degree of compliance by employers, who do not want to be embroiled in costly litigation?

Marina Frankel, an attorney in Preston, Lancashire, UK, asked the latter question:

“With employment litigation costs increasing for the claimants, litigants in person are also on the increase.  This makes the job of employment tribunals and employers’ legal advisers much more difficult and time consuming. Also, the costs for employers are much higher.

Could it be that costly litigation is a deterrent and employers are more careful not to discriminate and train their staff better?”

David Sorenson, an attorney in Leeds, UK, responded in the negative:

“Whilst I’d hope that the cost of litigation and threat of losing in an ET acts as a deterrent to employers (and means employers take more care not to discriminate and also to train their employees), our recent experience (as lawyers for Claimants – union members and private clients) is that ET fees have had a massive effect on employees and that the drop in ET claims is having an opposite effect on many employers – it is much less of a deterrent as it is seen as much less of a risk.

It seems those employers are becoming less concerned about ET claims, taking the opportunity to cut corners and treat their employees with less concern. I fear that this poor attitude is becoming more prevalent – meaning less equality and equity in the workplace. If right, this will harm society as a whole.”

As to what the fees actually are, Marina and Barry Fisher, a Toronto employment arbitrator and mediator, engaged in a helpful dialogue.

Marina, when asked by Barry about the fees, replied:

“Barry, the fees leaflet can be found here:

For discrimination claims (Type B) the fees are:
£250 issue fee
£950 hearing fee

Employers may pay the following:
Employer’s contract claim £160
Application to set aside a default judgement £100
Application to dismiss following settlement £60
Fee for judicial mediation £600

… plus £350 if the party wishes their claim reconsidered after the hearing.”

Barry:  “Those are very high fees. I can see why they would dissuade people from filing complaints. These fees are comparable for what you would pay to issue a claim and set an action down for a trial in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. To file an administrative complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal costs nothing. Furthermore complainants in human rights cases have access to government funded lawyers.”

Marina:  “I agree, Barry. Also, victims of discrimination do not have access to Legal Aid (government funded lawyers).  So, Solicitors’ and Barristers’ fees are additional and could end up being several thousand GBP for either party. With a statistically based common employment tribunal award being about £5000 to £10000 – no wonder there is a reduction in the issued cases.”