The Law Society of Scotland has called on the Scottish and UK Governments to rethink employment tribunal fees, after a recent report revealed a sharp drop in the number of cases going before tribunals.

In its report, the Law Society has said the fees represent a major barrier to access to justice, and have led to an 81% drop in the number of cases going before employment tribunals in the UK since their introduction in July 2013.

The Law Society conducted a survey of its members, asking for their views on the impact of the fees. The majority of respondents said that with the huge drop in the level of cases going before tribunals, the fees could not be supported. A smaller number suggested that there should be a review of the fee level, including that costs should be shared between employer and employee.

There were a range of other views expressed as well, highlighting difficulties with the current remission process, the viability of award payment if successful, the overall structure and future of the tribunal service and the way in which alternative dispute resolution could be incentivised.

"The effect of introducing fees, ostensibly to help meet the costs of running the tribunal system, has been drastic,” explained Stuart Naismith, convener of the Law Society's Access to Justice Committee. “We believe the current system is highly unfair and is preventing legitimate cases being heard by a tribunal.”

"The employment tribunal system has worked well throughout its history, offering an impartial tribunal to resolve workplace disputes,” he added. “The relationship between employer and claimant is often imbalanced and having a system in place which serves both parties effectively is crucial in the interests of fairness. We believe that the introduction of fees has changed that balance to the detriment of access to justice.”

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