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Employment Tribunal Fees to be quashed

The Employment Tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal Fees Order 2013 introduced employment tribunal fees in the UK on 29 July 2013. This meant in order to bring a claim, there was an initial issue fee of up to £250 and a further hearing fee of up to £950 to pay to set the case for trial. These fees led to a huge 70% reduction in employment tribunal claims being submitted.

However, the trade union, Unison, has now succeeded in a four year legal battle with the government, as the Supreme Court stated The Fees Order is unlawful under both domestic and EU law because it has the effect of preventing access to justice. Since it had that effect as soon as it was made, it was therefore unlawful and must be quashed.

Agreeing with Unison, the Supreme Court judges held that the introduction of fees had been unlawful and unconstitutional. It agreed with Unison’s evidence that the fall in claims demonstrated that the tribunal fees could not be afforded by those on low to middle incomes and prevented access to justice. It was also noted that the fees were set so high that they had a deterrent effect upon discrimination claims, among others and had put off more genuine claims than the vexatious claims than the fees were meant to deter.

It was further held that the fees system of charging higher fees for ‘Type B’ claims (such as discrimination and unfair dismissal) than ‘Type A’ claims (such as breach of contract) was also indirectly discriminatory.

Therefore, from today, employment tribunal fees as we know them will no longer be applicable. The government will also have to refund around £27 million to the people who have brought claims in the employment tribunals since July 2013.

Comment

This is a major victory for Unison on behalf of all employees in the UK. This may lead to a rise in tribunal claims but it is unlikely that the fee regime will be abolished entirely. What such a new regime will look like is unknown at this stage. It will also be interesting to see if employees who were prevented from bringing claims and are now over the time limit will be allowed to argue that it would be “just and equitable” to now allow them to bring the claim. Interesting time ahead of us for sure!

 

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