Following an appeal by UNISON (one of the UK’s largest trade unions) the Supreme Court (the highest Court within the UK’s legal system) has ruled that the requirement to pay the fees for issuing a claim and hearing a claim in the Employment Tribunals are unlawful as they prevent access to justice for many.
Within his judgment Lord Reed stated “It is argued that … The prescribed fees interfere unjustifiably with the right of access to justice under both the common law and EU law, frustrate the operation of Parliamentary legislation granting employment rights, and discriminate unlawfully against women and other protected groups.”
Following the introduction of the fees regime in 2013, if you wish to pursue a claim against your employer, you would have to pay a minimum of £390.00 unless you qualify for fee remission. This has meant that many employees have been unable to pursue their case or have been forced to settle simply because they cannot afford to litigate.
As the current regime has been ruled unlawful it is likely we will now see a government consultation followed by a reformed regime which will see lower fees introduced or possibly employer contributions.
The BBC has today reported that the Ministry of Justice said the government would take immediate steps to stop charging.
What about the fees that have already been paid?
The Supreme Court has made clear that all fees paid since the introduction of the fee regime are to be refunded by the Lord Chancellor’s Department. However, this is likely to be a time consuming task and may take some time to be processed.