Categorized | Civil Law

Employment tribunal fees

Employment tribunal fees

It is some time since Chris Grayling left the post of lord chancellor but his influence continues to be felt as his poor judgments have to be reversed. Now we have another embarrassing example.

In a landmark decision handed down last Wednesday, the Supreme Court, in the case of R (Unison) v Lord Chancellor (2017), unanimously found that fees imposed under the Employment Tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal Fees Order 2013 (‘Fees Order’), in respect of proceedings at the Employment Tribunal (‘ET’) and at the Employment Appeal Tribunal (‘EAT’), prevent access to justice and is unlawful.

As a result the government will have to refund up to £32 million to the thousands of people charged for taking claims to tribunal since July 2013, when fees were introduced by Grayling.

Fees were first imposed in the ET and the EAT by the Coalition Government in July 2013. The principal purpose of the Fees Order was to transfer some of the costs burden of operating ETs and the EAT to those who use the system. The aim was to encourage early settlement of claims and reduce the bringing of weak or vexatious claims.

The cases brought before employment tribunals in the UK range from unfair dismissal and equal pay to sex, age and racial discrimination. The total number of cases peaked in 2009-10 during the recession, reflecting an increase in redundancy related claims. Last year, employment tribunal fees generated £7.8m of income. Charging fees helped the MoJ to balance its books after the department’s budget was cut by 27 per cent in real terms between 2010-11 and 2016-17 as Grayling seemed to welcome Osborne’s austerity.

The most striking feature was the sharp drop in cases after 2012, coinciding with the government’s introduction of fees for using the service. Since July 2013, employees taking their case to tribunal have faced fees ranging from £390 (for claims such as breach of contract) to £1,200 (for claims such as unfair dismissal or sex discrimination). Appeals cost up to a further £1,600. The number of cases brought last year was 70 per cent lower than in 2012-13.

The public service trade union, Unison, sought judicial review of the Fees Order on the grounds that it unlawfully prevented or restricted access to justice. Unison sought to establish that the Fees Order was unlawful as there was a real risk that persons will effectively be prevented from having access to justice and that the degree of intrusion is greater than is justified by the objectives which the measure is intended to serve.

The Supreme Court decided in favour of Unison on both grounds. The court unanimously ruled that the fees contravene both EU and UK law and are “discriminatory” against women. The Court ruled that the fee schedule adopted prevents access to justice, and is therefore unlawful. Its concern was that the level and structure of the fees were effectively preventing employees enforcing the rights granted to them by Parliament. In their ruling, the court said: “A significant number of people have found the fees unaffordable.”

In addition it was held that fees can prevent access to justice not only where they are unaffordable, but also where they render it futile or irrational to bring a claim, since many ET claims do not seek any financial award or seek only modest amounts.

General secretary of Unison, Dave Prentis, said that the Ministry of Justice has been operating unlawfully for four years. He added: “The Government is not above the law, but when ministers introduced fees they were disregarding laws many centuries old, and showing little concern for employees seeking justice following illegal treatment at work.

“The Government has been acting unlawfully, and has been proved wrong – not just on simple economics, but on constitutional law and basic fairness too.”

This post was written by:

- who has written 462 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

Contact the author

More articles in this category:

Leave a Reply

Be first to get Legal News

Full Name
Email *
Enter the following to confirm your subscription *
advert

Follow Us on Twitter


Archives

Article Categories

Tags

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