Employment tribunal system needs overhaul – Law Society

Employees will continue to get a raw deal unless unlawful practice is properly punished, the Law Society says.

The representative body for solicitors claims the existing system is in need of radical reform as it is stacked against workers and the administration of justice.

Both complexity and cost are said to be a factor, with employees and businesses discouraged from bringing legitimate claims and defending wrongful accusations respectively.

Now the Law Society has proposed a new tribunal structure in which:

  • Claims are dealt with flexibly, depending on their intricacy and the financial stakes involved
  • All employment law disputes are handled in a single jurisdiction consisting of four levels
  • Simple cases, such as handling unpaid wage claims, are dealt with on a paper basis in Level One
  • More complex cases, such as multi-strand discrimination cases, are heard by an experienced judge in Level Four
  • Alternative dispute resolution exit points are available throughout the system and modern technology used to ensure people get the best advice and quickest outcomes.

Law Society president Jonathan Smithers said: “Our proposed system would be easy for the public to use, as there would be a single entry point, and make sure that cases are dealt with in the most appropriate way.

“The single jurisdiction would increase awareness of different types of alternative dispute resolution methods, including the benefits of solving the dispute before the hearing.”

He added: “Ministry of Justice (MoJ) statistics show that since the introduction of employment tribunal fees, the amount of disputes proceeding to the tribunal has collapsed by over 60 per cent. The £1,200 that a claimant must pay for most types of cases is close to the average monthly salary, putting the tribunal well beyond the reach on many people, particularly those on lower incomes. This could mean that bad employers are less likely to face challenge.

“Access to justice in employment matters should not be limited to those with the means to afford these fees. We believe that, by having a better system, the MoJ can make savings, which means they can scrap the current fees arrangement, and ensure that all employees can once again enforce their employment rights.”

The Ministry of Justice is currently conducting a review into the introduction of employment tribunal fees. The Law Society will be submitting its proposals as part of the process.