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Greene & Greene is a long established firm of solicitors based in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. Our lawyers advise individuals and businesses based all over the UK.

We regularly attract new clients who have been using firms in London, but now receive a more cost efficient and more personal service from us here in Bury St Edmunds.

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Wednesday
Jul262017

Employment tribunal fees unlawful

   The Supreme Court has declared this morning that fees for those bringing employment tribunal claims have been ruled unlawful and will be nullified. As a result, the government will possibly have to repay up to £32m to claimants in respect of fees paid between 2013 and now.

The decision follows the appeal by the trade union Unison who argued that the fees prevented many workers from getting ‘access to justice’.  The Supreme Court referred to the Government’s review on the impact of fees (discussed in our previous blog on 1 February 2017).  There has been ‘a sharp, significant and sustained fall’ ‘in the number of employment tribunal claims since the introduction of fees representing a reduction of 66–70% of cases. The proportion of claimants receiving fee remission was also lower than the government had anticipated. On this evidence the Court concluded that many people found the fees unaffordable and had been denied access to justice.

With fees ranging between £390 (Type A) and £1,200 (Type B) for a case to be heard at a hearing, the Supreme Court also concluded that it was indirectly discriminatory to charge higher fees for type ‘B’ claims (which include discrimination claims) than type ‘A’ claims (such as unpaid wages). It was found that a higher proportion of women bring Type B claims than Type A and that they were placed at a particular disadvantage compared to men; and it could not be objectively justified why Type B claims were more expensive.

What happens next?

  • Anyone lodging a tribunal claim will not be required to pay the tribunal fees. Those who have paid the fees (be it Claimants or Respondents) will have to watch this space in terms of how to reclaim fees (if possible).
  • Whether the number of claims will rise as sharply as they fell on the introduction of the fees regime is something Employers, ACAS and the Employment Tribunals will be watching very carefully. If they do, significant resources will need to be put back into the system to avoid a further backlog of claims.  
  • The Court’s decision does not prohibit the government imposing fees in the future as the decision relates to the level of fees being unlawful and preventing access to justice. Further consultation on this is likely to be necessary before any decision is taken.
  • Immediate attention is required by the Employment Tribunals Service for reprogramming the online claim form system and for them to rewrite the tribunal rules.
  • There is also the question concerning the amount of people who chose not to bring a claim due to the cost of the fees and whether they will seek to lodge their claims out of time. Although the answer the question is unknown, anyone in this position will need to act immediately to avoid prejudicing their chances.

If you have any questions regarding employment tribunals or any other employment matter please contact Greg Jones (gregjones@greene-greene.com ~ 01284 717446) or Angharad Ellis Owen (aellisowen@greene-greene.com ~ 01284 717453).

For more information on the services offered by Greene & Greene Solicitors please visit http://www.greene-greene.com and follow on Twitter @GreeneGreeneLaw.

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