On July 29, 2013 fees were introduced to access employment tribunals with typical sums being payable of £1,200 to issue and list a claim.
This led to a 70 per cent reduction in the number of tribunal claims being brought and was viewed by many unions as an unfair restriction upon the right to access justice.
Now, thanks to the ruling of the Supreme Court ,on July 26 2017 the fees are no longer payable when issuing a claim and further, those fees paid to date since the inception of the regime will have to be repaid. It is estimated that the total sums to be refunded are between £27million and £32m and the Government is to set up a refund scheme in ‘due course’.
The fee system was ruled to be unlawful in the case of R (Unison) vs Lord Chancellor (2017). In particular the Supreme Court was relying heavily upon UK constitutional law and referred to the introduction of fees as an inherent restriction on the right to access the courts. The ruling made it clear that access to tribunals and other courts provides a service to society in general and not just to the individual claimant.
Depending on whether you are an employer or employee will determine whether you will welcome the decision or view it as a potential opening of the floodgates for frivolous and vexatious claims. Whatever your opinion, the Supreme Court handed the Government a reminder that it will be held to account.
Claims can now be submitted without the requirement to pay the fee both in written and online formats. To do so please refer to www.gov.uk/employment-tribunals/make-a-claim .
Of course, it is still possible for the Government to suggest an Act of Parliament to set up an alternative fee regime but this is likely to be considered alongside the Supreme Court’s ruling and the strong message sent by the unanimous judgement.
Favell Smith & Lawson solicitors, Hathersage