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Employment tribunal fees introduced in July 2013 ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court following an appeal by Unison.

The Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that employment tribunal fees are unlawful. Everyone has the right of access to justice but the tribunal fees have adversely affected that right. This can be seen through the huge fall in the number of employment tribunal claims since the fees were introduced (a 66-70% decrease in claims). The Court commented that the fall in claims has been ‘so sharp, so substantial, and so sustained as to warrant the conclusion that a significant number of people who would otherwise have brought claims have found the fees to be unaffordable’.  The Court also concluded that the way the fees were structured was discriminatory – particularly against women.

What are the consequences of this decision?

  1. The Government may need to repay more than £27m to the thousands of people who were required to pay to take claims to tribunals since July 2013. Individuals will therefore be keen to claim back those fees. Respondents who had to pay fees to claimants who won their cases will also be looking to see if they can re-claim those costs.
  2. A new fees regime may be introduced with fees at a lower level and/or involving a fee payable by the employer when the employer responds to an employment tribunal claim. This could therefore adversely affect employers.
  3. The time limits for bringing a claim may be extended for individuals who did not previously pursue a claim due to the fees. This could mean a large number of historical claims being submitted.
  4. We are likely to see an increase in the number of tribunal claims going forward.

Unison have declared the result ‘a major victory for employees everywhere’ and that they ‘took the case on behalf of anyone who’s ever been wronged at work, or who might be in future. Unscrupulous employers no longer have the upper hand.’

 

The full judgment and press summary can be accessed by clicking here