The public sector union, Unison, has won a landmark court victory against the government regarding employment tribunal fees which were introduced back in July 2013. When the Employment Appeal Tribunal Fees Order 2013 came into force individuals were required to pay a fee when they lodged their claim at an Employment Tribunal (subject to limited exceptions). Individuals also had to pay an additional fee prior to any final hearing which would decide the matter.
What is the outcome of the employment tribunal fees case?
On 26 July 2017, in the case of R (on application of UNISON) v Lord Chancellor the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the fees are unlawful and have the effect of preventing access to justice.
The Supreme Court also found that the requirement to pay fees was indirectly discriminatory in relation to sex discrimination claims. This is because such claims are made by a higher proportion of women and consequently it effected their ability to access justice.
From 26 July 2017, the government is required to take immediate steps to stop charging the tribunal fees for making a claim in the Employment Tribunals (ET). In addition, the government will also now have to refund the thousands of people previously charged for claims they made in the ETs since the introduction of such fees. This is estimated to be in the region of £27 million.
One suggestion has been that the government might try and pass a statute for a more proportionate fee scheme. However, given that there is no clear majority in the government and the clear statistics on the impact that tribunal fees had on the ability of individuals to pursue their rights and justice, it is difficult to see how this legislation would get through Parliament in the near future.