Employment Tribunal fees are illegal and a barrier to justice, rules Supreme Court

27th July 2017

Employment Tribunal fees are illegal and a barrier to justice, rules Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has ruled that Employment Tribunal fees are “illegal” and prevent workers gaining access to justice.

The Government introduced charges of up to £1,200 in 2013 in an attempt to reduce the number of what it described as malicious and weak cases. As a result, the number of claims plummeted by 79% over three years.

However, Unison challenged the decision, claiming it was a barrier to those seeking justice for unfair dismissal, discrimination and other workplace issues.

And yesterday, the Supreme Court agreed, ruling that the Government had acted unlawfully and unconstitutionally when it introduced the fees. The Government will now have to repay up to £32 million to claimants.

What does Unison say?

The UK’s largest trade union hailed the landmark ruling as a victory for workers.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said thousands of people had been charged for taking claims to tribunal since fees were introduced four years ago.

“These unfair fees have let law-breaking bosses off the hook these past four years, and left badly treated staff with no choice but to put up or shut up.”

The union believes the fees dissuaded thousands of people with genuine claims from taking legal action, purely because they could not afford the cost.

What happens now?

Wednesday’s ruling will have major implications for businesses and employees across all sectors. Commentators believe the decision is likely to result in a significant increase in the numbers of employment tribunal claims.

Experts say it is unlikely the fees regime will be abolished entirely – the likelihood is they will be reduced.

The Employment Tribunals Service may well require extra resources to cope with the expected increase in demand. Meanwhile, thought will have to be given to those who decided against bringing a claim due to the cost – and whether or not they can take legal action now.

Claimants who paid fees will have to be refunded by the Government, which could involve a manual trawl of all decided cases.

How can our employment law experts help you?

If you run a business and would like guidance on what the Supreme Court’s decision will mean for your organisation, Gotelee’s employment law solicitors can help.

We can help you understand your responsibilities and obligations to ensure you don’t face legal action from disgruntled staff.

Our specialist solicitors in Ipswich, Hadleigh, Felixstowe, Woodbridge and Melton act for businesses large and small in Suffolk, Essex and further afield and can guide you with a minimum of fuss and expense.

Equally, if you are an employee and think you have been poorly treated by your employer, we can assess your case and advise on what (if any) action you can take.

To find out how Gotelee can help you, call Andrew West or Marie Allen, Employment Partners, on 01473 298126 or email EmploymentTeam@Gotelee.co.uk

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