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Employment Tribunal fees unlawful

It has been ruled today that fees for bringing Employment Tribunal cases are unlawful and must be quashed.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the fees, which range from £390 to £1200, prevented access to justice for those unable to afford the costs of bringing their case.

A Claimant who has paid a fee to bring an Employment Tribunal claim since the Employment Tribunal Fees Order came into effect in 2013, may be entitled to have their fees repaid by the Government, at an estimated cost of around £32 million.

The fee system, which was introduced to reduce the number of unmeritorious cases and to encourage early settlement, has led to a 79% reduction in cases over three years.

Emma Hamnett, Partner in our specialist employment & HR team, said:

The aim of the Fee Order was to transfer some of the cost burden of the Employment Tribunal system from general taxpayers to actual users of the system.  However the Court has today held that the effect of fees was to prevent access to justice and therefore the fees were unlawful.

The Court noted a dramatic and persistent fall in the number of claims brought in the Employment Tribunals with fees being the most frequently cited reason for not submitting a claim.

The Court also held that the payment of fees was indirectly discriminatory for those individuals bringing claims to protect characteristics such as age, disability, race and sex.

The decision, which is effective immediately, is being heralded as a victory for “workers and common sense” and provides clear statements on the importance of the rule of law and the constitutional right to access to justice.

It’s a good news day for workers who faced these fees at a financially vulnerable time having just lost their job.  However employers will now see a rise in the number of Tribunal claims threatened and then brought and a return to a more litigious working culture.”

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