Employment tribunal fees ruled unlawful

Dave Prentis general secretary of Unison More

"As yet, there is no process for parties to follow to claim these fees back".

Previously, a claim could be submitted to the Employment Tribunal for free.

The judges took the opportunity to comment on "indications of a lack of understanding" in government of the importance of access to justice. However, this ruling still does nothing for the claimants that would have brought claims, but for the fees'.

"Given the near total absence of government enforcement of employment law and the government's refusal to get serious about addressing insecure work, today's decision is a game changer", he said. The Fees Order is also unlawful because it contravenes the European Union law guarantee of an effective remedy before a tribunal: it imposes disproportionate limitations on the enforcement of European Union employment rights. For unfair dismissal, equal pay, discrimination or whistleblowing, claim fee was £250 and hearing fee was £950. For cases related to unpaid wages, redundancy pay or breach of contract, the claim fee was £160 and hearing fee was £230. Flat fees apply to employment appeal tribunal (EAT) cases.

An order requiring employment tribunal claimants to pay a fee in order to bring a claim has been declared unlawful under both domestic and European Union law as it prevents access to justice, the UK Supreme Court has ruled.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: "When ministers introduced fees they were disregarding laws many centuries old, and showing little concern for employees seeking justice following illegal treatment at work".

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The UK's highest court unanimously ruled this morning that the Conservative government acted unlawfully and unconstitutionally when it introduced the costs to workers challenging misconduct by their employers in July 2013.

"There is ... no dispute that the purposes which underlay the making of the fees order are legitimate", said Lord Reed, giving the judgment of the court. As a matter of domestic law, the Fees Order is unlawful if there is a real risk that persons will effectively be prevented from having access to justice, or if the degree of intrusion into access to justice is greater than is justified by the purposes of the Fees Order.

As a result, thousands of people who paid up to £1,200 to challenge their employers since 2013, when the fees were first introduced, will be reimbursed for any fees not already recovered. This had happened "notwithstanding" the existence of the remission scheme, which was in any event "of very restricted scope".

The fees have led to a 70 per cent drop in the numbers of claims brought in tribunals across England and Wales over four years and been widely condemned as preventing access to justice.

Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green Party said: "Employment tribunal fees block workers from accessing justice". "Many claims which do seek a financial award are for modest amounts".

Third, the fees regime discriminates directly against women and there is no objective justification for this discriminatory effect.

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