Employment Tribunal Fees – UNISON challenge fails

From July 2013 individuals who wish to take Employment Tribunal claims have had to pay a fee. The fees ranged from £160 for a simple claim (such as a wages claim) to £250 for a more complex claim (like unfair dismissal). Any claim which is not accompanied by the appropriate fee must be rejected by the Tribunal (See Rule 11).

A further fee of between £230 to £950 is also payable if the case progresses to a hearing. There are some provisions for the remission or part-remission of fees which depend on status and income.

The introduction of the fee system produced a spike in Tribunal claims (as those with pre-July 2013 complaints scrambled to get them into the system before fees were introduced) and then – predictably – a considerable drop off of cases submitted (reportedly more than one half less).

Fewer Tribunal claims means less access to justice, not only for those who claim unrealistically or in bad faith, but also for those with genuine complaints. It is good for employers, but bad for those who have genuinely been wronged and cannot afford the cost of enforcing their rights.

EU law prohibits national courts from making it impossible or excessively difficult for individuals to gain access to rights conferred by EU Law (which many employment related rights are). So the UK’s largest Union, UNISON, took a legal challenge to the introduction of fees on this basis and three others (including arguments that the fee regime will indirectly discriminate against those within protected classes).

The High Court has today issued its Judgment refusing UNISON’s challenge to the lawfulness of the fee regime. We understand that UNISON intend to appeal this decision to the Court of Appeal.

For now at least, and no doubt to the relief of many employers, the Fee regime is here to stay.

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