Supreme Court rules employment tribunal fees are unlawful

Supreme Court rules employment tribunal fees are unlawful

Fees charged to those bringing employment tribunal claims have been ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court in a landmark decision welcomed by employment lawyers and prospective claimants.

In 2013, employment tribunal fees were introduced to reflect the Government's intention to reduce the amount of weak or malicious claims. It was believed that introducing these fees would not deter those who had stronger employment claims.

Unfortunately, there was an ultimately negative effect on the system which the Government had not hoped for. There was a 79% reduction in employment tribunal cases over 3 years and realistically many potential claimants in lower paid jobs could not afford to have their cases heard. For many the introduction of fees meant that any financial benefit from bringing a claim would be diminished and pointless. As a result, an undeterminable amount of people have missed out on accessing justice and our employment tribunal system has failed to protect those it was designed to.

Unison took the matter to the Supreme Court and argued that the introduction of fees had denied many the access to justice and that this had "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". With cases taking up to, and sometimes, over a year to go to trial, it has become increasingly difficult for those in lower income jobs to challenge their employer and enforce their employment rights.

The Supreme Court also found that the tiered system for fees was in itself indirectly discriminatory as a higher proportion of women bring discrimination claims in the employment tribunal.

The decision will have a huge impact on the employment tribunal system and is a monumental win for workers across the country. This change will commence immediately and we therefore encourage those who have (within the last few months) been put off making a claim, due to tribunal fees, to seek legal advice about taking their potential claim further.

The Ministry of Justice has also stated that the Government will take immediate steps to stop charging fees and refund any payments that have been made over the last 3 years. We at Clapham & Collinge will be keeping up to date with this and contacting as many of our past clients as we can to ensure they have access to their refund.

If you have a potential employment tribunal claim and need advice or are an employer concerned about the potential claims employees may have against you, please contact us on 01603 693500 or email us using the 'Make an enquiry' form. Appointments are available at our Norwich, North Walsham, Brooke and Sheringham offices.

For more information on Employment Law for Individuals please see our Employment Law page.

For information on Employment Law for Businesses please see our Employment Law page for Businesses.