Unison victory as judges scrap Tories' hated employment tribunal fees

Unison victory as judges scrap Tories' hated employment tribunal fees

Judges cited a 70 per cent fall in employment tribunal cases since 2013 and said the fees were also "contrary to the Equality Act 2010 as they disproportionately affected women". But what happens next?

According to government statistics the number of claims fell 79% to 9,801 in the final quarter of previous year compared with the same period in 2012, and dropped 75% on the third quarter of 2013.

The case was taken by the UNISON trade union, which successfully argued that the fees prevented many workers from gaining justice at work.

Companies with employees in the United Kingdom could be inundated with employment claims following a landmark court victory over employment tribunal fees. The Fees Order is also unlawful because it contravenes the European Union law guarantee of an effective remedy before a tribunal: it imposes disproportionate limitations on the enforcement of European Union employment rights. "What that will look like remains to be seen". Matthew Taylor referenced this challenge in his Review published this month by suggesting that status assessments by Tribunals should be decided as preliminary issues and not attract fees.

"We expressed concerns around the access to justice impact of fees in 2012, prior to their introduction, and urged the UK Government to rethink the introduction of employment tribunal fees in 2014 as research we carried out showed the impact that these fees had on tribunal claims". A claim or appeal would be rejected if not accompanied by the designated fee. "This will have knock-on implications for business, Acas and the employment tribunal system itself - all of whom will have to deal with the increased volume of claims".

Largely the arguments at the Supreme Court centred on whether or not the fees regime could be objectively justified. "As yet, there is no process for parties to follow to claim these fees back".

Unison says the Government will now have to refund millions of pounds to the thousands of people charged for taking their claims to tribunal since.

The court unanimously agreed the fees were unlawful because they "prevent access to justice".

Hugh Collins, professor of English Law at the University of Oxford, said the fees were four times higher than they ought to be when compared with county court fees.

"Given the near total absence of government enforcement of employment law and the government's refusal to get serious about addressing insecure work, today's decision is a game changer", he said.

"The result is that there will be no fees to be paid to file or pursue claims".

"It may be helpful to begin by explaining briefly the importance of the rule of law, and the role of access to the courts in maintaining the rule of law".

"We wholeheartedly welcome this judgment".

"There is ... no dispute that the purposes which underlay the making of the fees order are legitimate", said Lord Reed, giving the judgment of the court. All other claims are type B, including unfair dismissal, equal pay and discrimination claims.