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Supreme Court declares employment tribunal fees unlawful – a landmark ruling for workers

Posted: 26th July 2017   In: Business Employment, Individual Employment

The Supreme Court today has scrapped employment tribunal fees which were introduced in 2013.

The trade union, Unison, brought the case to court after a significant decline in the number of cases following the fee implementation. Official government statistics show that there was a 79% reduction in cases over three years. In July 2013, 7240 cases were sent to employment tribunals as opposed to 1207 in September 2013; a worrying negative spike.

Although the fees were brought in so that weak and malicious cases were reduced, low and middle income families and claimants were unable to pay the fees which ranged between £390 and £1,200. The court ruled that the fees prevent people access to justice and that they are indirectly discriminatory to women due to a higher proportion of women bringing discrimination claims.


Source: Ministry of Justice

At the beginning of the case the Lord Chancellor stated that if the fees were to be found unlawful, those who had paid them would be reimbursed. Following the ruling the Ministry of Justice will be taking immediate steps to stop charging and to refund the fees. The government will now pay back to claimants the £32 million which were raised since the fees were introduced.

Disturbingly we will never know the amount or range of cases which could and should have been brought to an employment tribunal, but were deterred by the fees. It is also an unknown whether we will now see a rise in tribunal claims being brought.

Extract from Judgment on R (on the application of UNISON) (Appellant) v Lord Chancellor (Respondent) [2017] UKSC 51

Please contact Jackie Cuneen or Robert Bedford if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.

Posted by: Jackie Cuneen
Luton Office