In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court has overturned the Government’s tariff of Employment Tribunal fees, which have been judged as “illegal” and preventing access to justice.
Employment Tribunal fees were increased to as much as £1,200 in 2013 to reduce the number of malevolent and weak cases. However, the measure resulted in a 79 per cent drop in claims over three years.
The ruling means that the Government will now have to repay £32million to claimants.
The Supreme Court said the fees contravene both EU and UK law and are also “discriminatory” against women.
“A significant number of people have found the fees unaffordable,” said the Court in its ruling.
It based its conclusion on the fact that fees were “inconsistent with access to justice” and that fees were also contrary to the Equality Act 2010 as they disproportionately affected women.
The Ministry of Justice said the Government would take “immediate steps” to stop charging and refund payments.
Unison, which brought the claim against the Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Liz Truss, said the ruling was a major victory for employees everywhere.
“Unscrupulous employers no longer have the upper hand,” said Unison’s General Secretary, Dave Prentis.
“The Government has been acting unlawfully, and has been proved wrong – not just on simple economics, but on constitutional law and basic fairness too.”
He added: “These unfair fees have let law-breaking bosses off the hook these past four years, and left badly treated staff with no choice but to put up or shut up. We’ll never know how many people missed out because they couldn’t afford the expense of fees.”
Commenting on the ruling, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady, said “This is a massive win for working people. Too many low-paid workers couldn’t afford to uphold their rights at work, even when they’ve faced harassment or have been sacked unfairly.
“Tribunal fees have been a bonanza for bad bosses, giving them free rein to mistreat staff. Any fees paid so far should be refunded as soon as possible.”
Lara Murray, an Associate Solicitor and employment law expert with Palmers, said: “This important ruling will have huge implications for any worker who, until now, has been discouraged from seeking legal redress because of the high cost of taking their case to an employment tribunal.
“We now have a much more level playing field which means that no one should have to quietly put up with unfair working practices. There is help available and anyone who feels they have been discriminated against, or subjected to unfair treatment in the workplace, should seek legal advice.”
For help and advice on all aspects of employment law including employment tribunals, please contact us.