Supreme court rules tribunal fees unlawful

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The Supreme Court has ruled that the government’s imposition of fees for access to employment tribunals is unlawful, as it prevents access to justice.

The Fees Order was introduced in 2013 by the government in order, in its view, to transfer the cost from the taxpayer to the claimant, to deter unmeritorious claims and to facilitate earlier settlement.

The Supreme Court has rejected those criteria and moved to a much earlier philosophy on access to justice.

The government had introduced the fees via secondary legislation and that is now determined to be unlawful with such a fundamental change to court fees requiring an act of parliament.

It is to be expected that the number of tribunal applications, that had been significantly reduced since the imposition of the fees will now rise again.

Since fees were introduced in 2013, the number of Employment Tribunal cases has dropped significantly from around 218,000 to approximately 70,000 per annum, as claimants, many of whom had lost a job or had been forced to leave, could not afford to pay.

The fact that they could have the fees included in an award if they won did not overcome the initial financial hurdle, which was required up front, probably many months before the court could reach a decision and may an award.

Chris Moses of Personnel Advice & Solutions in Sleaford explained that 2013 also saw the extension of the qualifying period for claims of unfair/constructive dismissal from one to two years, which seriously limited the number of people who could make such a claim.

Furthermore ACAS also introduced early conciliation in 2013, which offers both parties an opportunity to resolve matters before someone can submit their claim, which has proven to be successful in reducing the number of cases progressing to a full hearing.

“One effect of the removal of fees could be that employers come under greater pressure to try and reach a settlement through ACAS, as the claimant no longer has the financial barrier to overcome before taking their employer to court,” he said.