In a landmark case the Supreme Court has today ruled that the Employment Tribunal fee system is unlawful.

In R (on the application of UNISON) (Appellant) v Lord Chancellor (Respondent) [2017] UKSC 51 the Supreme Court found that the current fee system effectively prevents access to justice. It said “The fall in the number of claims has… been so sharp, so substantial, and so sustained as to warrant the conclusion that a significant number of people who would otherwise have brought claims have found the fees to be unaffordable.” This is made worse as most people who bring a claim do so by “practical compulsion” rather than choice.

The Supreme Court found that for households on low to middle incomes the fees were not affordable. Also, when considering those employees seeking modest sums (and non-financial claims) and taking into account the practical problem of employers not always paying the sums awarded, fees sometimes made claims futile or irrational. If that were not enough, the Supreme Court also found that the rate of fees as currently set had a deterrent effect upon discrimination claims and that it deterred claims with merit at least as much as those without merit.

Since 2013 the Government has raised approximately £32 million in fees. The Justice Minister Dominic Raab has said that the Government will “immediately” stop charging Employment Tribunal fees and begin work on reimbursing claimants for past fees. By way of illustration, those former employees who brought a claim for unfair dismissal will be looking for a refund of the £250 issue fee and the £950 hearing fee.

We are interested to hear from employees looking to bring an Employment Tribunal claim and anyone who has paid fees in the past and is due a refund.  For more information or to speak to one of our employment solicitors, please call us on 01924 387 110.


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