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Employment tribunal costs ‘putting people off’ valid claims

27 July 2014

New research from Citizens Advice shows 7 in 10 potentially successful cases are not pursued by people at Employment Tribunals. Only 14% with valid claims are definitely being taken forward.

On July 29th last year the Government introduced fees of up to £1,200 to access the Employment Tribunal. In the six months from October 2013 to March 2014 there was a 73% drop in claims on the same period the previous year.

Millions are logging onto Citizens Advice’s website in need of help with employment up 42% on last year, and tribunal searches are up 54%.   

The new findings are from an analysis, carried out by Citizens Advice advisors, of 182 employment cases brought to bureaux between June and July this year. The advisors assessed the strength of the claim and how likely it would be pursued.

  • 4 in 5 of cases had a 50/50 chance or higher of success if they were pursued to tribunal
  • Just 31% of the potential success cases are likely or definite to proceed to tribunal
  • In over half the cases, fees or costs are deterring people
  • Under a quarter of claims worth £1000 or less are likely to be, or are definitely being taken forward
  • A fifth contained discrimination as a basis for claim

Unfair dismissal and withholding wages was the most common issue along with holiday pay.

The complexity of the process, stresses involved and fear of losing jobs also dissuaded people.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive, Citizens Advice said:

“Employers are getting away with unlawful sackings and withholding wages. People with strong employment claims are immediately defeated by high costs and fees.  

“The risk of not being paid, even if successful, means for many the Employment Tribunal is just not an option. The cost of a case can sometimes be more than the award achieved and people can’t afford to fight on principle anymore.

“Citizens Advice wants to see a fair and robust review of the Employment Tribunal system to make it work for all people and employment abuses eradicated.”   

Case study

Jack worked 40 hours a week for over two months as a kitchen porter. When he left he was not paid holiday entitlement which was calculated at just under £300. The Citizens Advice Bureau helped Jack requesting this from his former employer but they did not respond. Jack was advised he would be unlikely to qualify for remission of the Employment Tribunal fees as his wife works. On being informed the fees were £390, Jack decided it was not cost effective to bring this claim.

Notes to editors:

  1. This year the Citizens Advice service celebrates its 75th anniversary. We’ve planned a year of activity running from January to December 2014. Contact the press office on 03000 231 080, or via email at, to find out more.
  2. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  3. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  4. To find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit You can also get advice online at
  5. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers
  6. Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.1 million clients on 6.6 million problems from April 2012 to March 2013. For full 2012/2013 service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends
  7. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 22,000 trained volunteers, working at over 3,000 service outlets across England and Wales.