Employment Tribunal Fees to be Scrapped Following Landmark Unison Victory

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Since the introduction of employment tribunal fees in July 2013, Unison has been fighting the corner for employees everywhere for the fees to be scrapped. Last week, after a four-year battle, they were rewarded with a momentous victory in the Supreme Court.
The unanimous ruling, which stated the government had acted unlawfully in introducing the fees, will result in the £27m collected by the fees being refunded. And as of last week, employees who have been treated illegally or unfairly will no longer have to pay to take their employers to court.

Previously the fees could have been as much as £1,200 per case, which resulted in a lot of hardship for low-income workers who may have struggled to progress their case as a result. Unison argued that the government had disregarded longstanding laws and employees across the country when they introduced the fees. Following last week’s ruling, all employees regardless of their means will now have access to justice.

Speaking following the verdict, Unison assistant general secretary Bronwyn McKenna who has been greatly involved in the success stated: “The Supreme Court correctly criticised the government’s failure when it set the fees to consider the public benefits flowing from the enforcement of legal rights enacted by Parliament.

“The effective enforcement of these rights is fundamental to parliamentary democracy and integral to the development of UK law. UNISON’s case has helped clarify the law and gives certainty to citizens and businesses in their everyday lives.”

The court stated that the fall in claims being made following the introduction of the fees was so substantial that it showed claims just could not be afforded by the majority of workers. Workers who otherwise would have made a genuine claim.

One objective of introducing the fees was to limit bogus and bothersome claims, however, it seemed that due to the excessive nature of the fees, they actually prevented the more genuine cases getting to court and well-meaning employees getting the justice they deserved.

So what next? Well, a lot of work for the government to put things right and a lot of other questions that need to be answered…

Firstly, it is likely to be a large task, with a lot of manual work required to process all the refunds of the tried cases.

There will also be technological challenges as the online claim system will need re-programming, in addition to the re-writing of the tribunal rules.

And what of those unfairly and illegally treated employees who were previously unable to make a claim due to the cost? Will the timeframe for bringing a claim be extended for them to finally attempt to get justice? We will need to wait and see.

Finally, will any new fees be introduced? Again, time will tell.

This is a landmark ruling that will no doubt leave a lot of questions needing to be answered for employees everywhere who have been affected. Should you wish to speak to our resident expert on Employment Law, Matthew Finley, he can be contacted on 01282 433241 and he will be happy to answer your questions.