Employment Tribunal fines bring in just 6% of expected total
Powers for employment tribunals to levy additional fines on rogue employers who flout employment laws with “aggravating factors” have led to an income of under £18,000 since they were introduced in April 2014. The figures, released by the government’s Business Minister Margot James are in stark contrast with an assessment prepared by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in 2011. The assessment predicted that employment judges would levy the additional fines in up to 25% of tribunal hearings, leading to a likely income of £2.8m. In fact, only 18 such fines have been levied to date, of which only 12 have actually been paid.
Caroline Lucas MP, who had prompted the government’s announcement by way of a written question, criticised the findings, and attributed the lack of fines to the introduction of tribunal fees in 2013. “Fees have eradicated exactly the kind of claim that ministers had in mind when they came up with the idea (of additional fines); low-value claims against a rogue exploitative employer” she commented.
The figures draw fresh attention to the policy of charging individuals to lodge a claim with an employment tribunals. The introduction of fees has been criticised as a barrier to justice, especially for lower-paid workers who may nonetheless have legitimate claims. The House of Commons Justice Committee announced in June 2016 that the number of employment claims had fallen by almost 70% since their introduction three years earlier. The Law Society have called for a government review of tribunal fees (scheduled to have been published in 2015) to be released as soon as possible.