Tribunal Fees Abolished!
26 July 2017 was a day in history for employment lawyers and employment claimants across the UK. It was ruled by the Supreme Court that employment tribunal fees imposed by the government since 2013 are unlawful and must be scrapped. This case was brought by Unison (the biggest trade union representative organisation in the UK) who successfully argued that the fees unlawfully discriminated against women and other groups of workers. The Supreme Court ruled that the fees and their levels are unlawful and unconstitutional.
The union have claimed that the fees that have been charged between 2013 and the current date will need to be reimbursed, landing the government with an estimated bill of between £27-32 million.
Since the introduction of the fee regime, the number of claims brought to employment tribunal is estimated to have dropped by over 70%, in turn allowing some employers to take a robust approach to dealing with their employees knowing that they are unlikely to pay the issue fee to bring a claim against the employer.
This is a case in history! It will allow those employees who have been dismissed or discriminated at work to fight for justice without having to find money (that they don’t necessarily have as most will have lost their jobs) to bring a claim against their employers or ex-employers.
What will happen now…
It is unlikely that fees will be scrapped altogether. It is likely that the government will bring in a different fee regime with lower fees. It may also include employer contributing to the cost, or even having to pay to issue their response form to a claim! We do not know any defined details on how the Government will deal with the fees yet. That being said, as it currently stands, the employment tribunals are not accepting payments for tribunal fees and as such claims are being accepted and issued free of charge. Any change to this is likely to be several months away.
There is also some commentary that there could be an argument for employees who didn’t bring claims between 2013 and 2017 due to prohibitive cost, and are now out of time, could seek to bring their claims now on the basis it was not “reasonably practicable” to have brought them in time due to the cost. Watch this space!!