July 31, 2017

U.K. Supreme Court: Employment Tribunal Fees Are Unlawful

In a landmark decision in R (on the application of UNISON) v Lord Chancellor [2017] UKSC 51, the U.K.’s Supreme Court unanimously found that the Employment Tribunal fee regime is unlawful.

Since 2013, claimants have had to pay fees of up to £1,200 to bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal. A judicial review challenging the lawfulness of this fee regime was brought by the trade union UNISON and supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Independent Workers Union.

All seven Supreme Court justices found in favour of UNISON’s arguments and allowed the appeal in full, finding that the fee regime unlawfully prevented access to justice. The fees bore no relation to the value of the claim brought, and were the most frequently cited deterrent for claimants in bringing a claim. Additionally, they were indirectly discriminatory, putting women and other protected groups at a disadvantage as those more likely to bring discrimination claims (which required a higher fee).

We expect that this decision will result in a significant increase in Employment Tribunal claims. In addition, all fees which have been paid by claimants since 2013 are now repayable – a major administrative burden for an already pared down Tribunal system. A new regime is likely to be introduced in the future, but it is unclear when this will happen or what it will involve. We will keep you posted.

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