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Employment tribunal fees ruled unlawful

In 2013, the government introduced fees of up to £1,200.00 to bring an employment tribunal claim. This, they said, was aimed to reduce the number of malicious and weak cases. In the 3 years since this was introduced, the number of cases brought fell by 79%.

The July 2017 case of R (Unison) v Lord Chancellor, ruled that the employment law tribunal fee – which has been in implementation since 2013 – is unlawful and unconstitutional. Unison general secretary, Dave Prentis said that “these unfair fees have 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.”

The process of amending unfair fees

Processes are now in place to refund all employment tribunal fees paid during this period. This is estimated to represent up to £32m of unfair fees paid. The refund scheme is now fully open as of November 15th, 2017. In order to access a refund of fees paid during this time, people are directed to the government website. This also extends to employers who have been ordered by the tribunal to pay the employee’s fee on their behalf, provided they can prove that this fee was actually paid.

Employment tribunal happy

This result is no surprise

Fees ranged from £390-£1200. Those at the higher end would often be discrimination cases, due to the general complexity and length of such cases. The Supreme Court found that this was indirectly discriminatory towards women, as proportionally more women would bring such claims than men. With the fees as high as they were, it was found that many people would be prevented from bringing such claims. This was on the basis that paying would render any financial compensation futile. This was especially the case for low to middle paid workers. These employees would often not be able to afford to uphold their statutory rights having faced situations involving harassment, discrimination and unfair dismissal, amongst others.

But what happens to those who have not brought claims during this time due to the high expense of the fees?

The question is whether the employment tribunal will allow a late submission of claims to take this into account. We have no unequivocal direction on this. However, it was suggested in the July 2017 case that those wishing to pursue a case, and who have been unable to do so thus far, should issue a claim without further delay.

Our thoughts on the case

Here at 174 Law, we are overjoyed by the new regime. Proper access to justice is essential and we look forward to gaining justice on behalf of our clients unhindered by these prejudicial fees. Please do get in touch if you require any advice or assistance.