Employment Tribunal Fees – Supreme Court Decision
After many years of solicitors, barristers, employees, trade unions, and other bodies alike, asserting that the introduction of Employment Tribunal Fees prevented access to justice, the Supreme Court has decided today that their introduction was unlawful.
[Scroll down for the latest update].
Unison have led this challenge, through the court system over the years (High Court 2013 and the Court of Appeal 2015), and today they were finally successful in the Supreme Court.
Following the introduction of fees in 2013 there was an approximate 70% reduction in claims. Many claimants (employees and workers) were dissuaded from pursuing worthwhile claims, particular those on a low income or those facing a greater risk of a long period of future unemployment, by the high level of fees (usually £1200).
Today that has all changed. In summary what this now means is:
- Employment Tribunal Fees, as they stand, have stopped (it may take a few days for the online system to catch up).
- It is not anticipated that we will revert to the status of before 2013, where no fees were payable. Instead new regulations are likely to be introduced, with what is suspected to be a new lower fee regime in its place. It has already been suggested by a leading employment barrister that this might include a fee being payable at a later date, such as when the employer (respondent) lodges its defence (ET3).
- Previously paid fees will somehow be refunded (approximately £32 million). This will not be an easy challenge, not least, where settlements or orders were made to include compensation from the employer to the employee so to reimburse paid Tribunal fees, or insurance was used to cover the Tribunal fees.
- Some employers or workers may seek to argue that they now want to pursue their case, which would normally have been out of time, if they did not do so previously because of the high fees payable.*
- Tribunal paperwork and IT systems will need to be rapidly changed!
The next few days, weeks, months, and years will be interesting. However, hopefully we will end up with a fairer justice system for all.
*At the time of writing those cases were being stayed (started by employees but then put on hold by the Tribunal).
UPDATE October 2017 -if you have previously paid Tribunal Fees, and are eligible for a refund, the first of the refunds are now being processed and you can pre-register too.
Further information can be found here.
Image used from Unison press release.