Breaking News: Employment Tribunal Fees Unlawful – Supreme Court Rules

July 27, 2017

The Supreme Court handed down a ground-breaking judgment on Tribunal Fees this morning, fees for those bringing employment tribunal claims have been ruled unlawful, and the government will now have to repay up to £32m to claimants.

The government introduced fees in 2013 to reduce the number of malicious and weak cases, but that led to a 79% reduction over three years. Trade union Unison argued that the fees prevented workers getting access to justice.

The Supreme Court also found fees were indirectly discriminatory to women.

It ruled the government was acting unlawfully and unconstitutionally when it introduced the fees. Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “This is absolutely a tremendous victory, it’s probably the biggest victory of employment rights in this country.”

Fees ranged between £390 and £1,200 to get a case heard at a hearing. Discrimination cases cost more for claimants because of the complexity and time hearings took.

The Supreme Court found this was indirectly discriminatory because a higher proportion of women would bring discrimination cases.

The short-term consequences of the judgment are that:

  • With immediate effect fees are no longer payable for claims before the ET or appeals to the EAT; and
  • In accordance with an undertaking given by the Lord Chancellor to the courts below, all fees which were paid in the past must be reimbursed.

The long term consequence is that:

  • The Supreme Court has given the strongest possible endorsement to the fundamental public importance of access to justice, meaning that future restrictions of all kinds (and not just financial barriers) on access to the courts will be subjected to the closest scrutiny in accordance with the principles set out by Lord Reed.

A more in-depth summary relating to the implications of the above will follow in our next Employment Newsletter.

If you have any questions in the meantime please speak to Jonathan or Eugenie.

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