Employment Tribunal fees unlawful: success for Unison

After a lack of success in the High Court and the Court of Appeal, trade union Unison have succeeded in their battle for justice after the UK Supreme Court has rules that the fees for the employment tribunal are unlawful.

Unison filed an action against the Government claiming that the rising employment tribunal fees of up to £1,200 were preventing workers from accessing justice. The action was taken against Liz Truss, who was the justice secretary and Lord Chancellor at the time of the fee rise.

The union argued that by raising the fees, the Government were opening the doors for bad employees to take advantage of their employees as they were in full knowledge that the employees could not afford the high tribunal fees, let alone finance creating the case itself.

Unison seemed to be on a losing battle when the UK High Court and the Court of Appeal dismissed their claim, however there was a light at the end of the tunnel when they were granted permission to take their case to the UK Supreme Court.

The case was considered on Wednesday 26th July by a panel of seven judges including the court’s president Lord Nueberger.

The decision of the court was that the fees were “inconsistent with access to justice” which has resulted in a substantial fall in the number of claims being made by workers. There had been a 70% fall in the number of cases started in the employment tribunal since the introduction and rise of fees.

The court also stated that the fees were indirectly discriminatory as they disproportionally affected women.

Speaking of the court’s decision, the Ministry of Justice said it would take “immediate steps to stop charging fees in employment tribunals and put in place arrangements to refund those who have paid”.

This will be a costly business, if Unison’s estimate of £27 million in fees that are to be refunded are anything to go by.

This is a success for Unison who are obviously delighted with the court’s decision. Unison’s general secretary, Dave Prentis, said it was a major victory for employees. “Unscrupulous employers no longer have the upper hand,” he said.

After previous disappointment for workers, the bar on justice has now been lifted and unlawful employers should now be brought to justice.

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