Since 2013 anyone bringing a claim against their employer in England, Scotland and Wales has been required to pay up to £1,200 in advance of the hearing, but the UK Supreme Court has now ruled that these employment tribunal fees are in fact unlawful.
The key issue is that the fees could deter people from taking action, denying them their right to justice via a court or tribunal.
The ruling comes after a government review found that the number of cases taken to employment tribunals has fallen by 70 per cent over the last four years, leading the Supreme Court to conclude that “A significant number of people have found the fees unaffordable”’
The government’s response states that charging will stop immediately and people who have paid employment tribunal fees will be refunded.
This really is a ground-breaking decision with the Supreme Court taking a strong stance to defend workers’ rights and their ability to enforce those rights.
However employers will potentially need to brace themselves for an increase in the number of claims with employees emboldened to assert their rights without financial barriers.
Equally there could be an increase in settlement agreements as employers opt to resolve matters before an employee issues a claim. The administrative issues surrounding how the fee refunds will be processed will also take a lot of time to unravel in coming months.
If you find yourself at the centre of an unfair dismissal, equal pay or discrimination claim, whether as an employer or an employee, I would strongly advise that you get advice from a reputable employment lawyer. For a chat about any of these matters, call me on 01782 205000 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org