Supreme Court rules UK employment tribunal fees unlawful

The UK Supreme Court has ruled that government-imposed employment tribunal fees were unlawful as they prevented access for people enforcing their statutory employment rights. These fees have now been stopped and the government will not have to refund for fees already paid.

The case had been brought by the trade union Unison following the introduction of the fees in 2013. Unison had argued that the fees interfered unjustifiably with the right of access to justice under both the common law and EU law, frustrated the operation of parliamentary legislation granting employment rights, and discriminated unlawfully against women and other protected groups.

The Court agreed with Unison’s arguments that the fees restricted access to justice.The evidence before the Court showed that the fees led to a dramatic and persistent fall in the number of claims brought to employment tribunals with a greater fall in the number of lower value claims and claims in which a financial remedy was not sought. Fees were the most frequently cited reason for not submitting a claim, the Court said. The Court also said that the fees indirectly discriminated against women and contravened the Equality Act 2010.

Unison said the bill for refunding those who had been charged for taking claims to tribunals would reach over £27m.

supreme court UK employment tribunal

Frances O’Grady TUC General Secretary: Employment Tribunal fees were a bonanza for bad bosses

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “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.”

Frances O’Grady TUC general secretary agreed with Prentice stating: “The fees have been a bonanza for bad bosses, giving them a free rein to mistreat staff. As Unison rightly argued, access to the courts is a vital component of the rule of law. Working rights aren’t worth the paper they’re written on unless they can be enforced.

“This is a resounding defeat for the government, and they must act immediately to implement the court’s finding. Any fees paid should be refunded as soon as possible. But even then, we’ll never know how many people have missed out on justice over the last four years because they couldn’t afford to pay for it.”

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