Employment tribunal claimant fees abolished

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The Supreme Court has unanimously allowed Unison’s appeal against the legality of the fee system in the Employment Tribunals and Employment Appeal Tribunal, marking an end to the fees that were introduced in 2013 by Chris Grayling, the then Lord Chancellor.

The fee system had aimed to transfer part of the cost burden of the Tribunals from tax payers to users of the service, to deter spurious claims and encourage earlier settlement. Unless the criteria for remission were met, claimants were required to pay a fee on presenting their claim to the Tribunal, and a hearing fee ahead of the claim being heard.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the fees are unlawful under both domestic and EU law because ‘they have the effect of preventing access to justice and the aims of the fee system do not justify this.’

It further commented that the fees bear no direct relation to the amount of compensation sought, and therefore act as a deterrent to claims for modest amounts or non-monetary remedies, which together form the majority of claims.

Sam Murray-Hinde, a Partner in the Employment team at law firm Howard Kennedy, said: “The ruling highlights the high level of protection that is afforded to access to justice.

“The consequence is that fees cease to be payable from today and the Government will need to refund millions of pounds worth of fees paid by claimants since their introduction in 2013.

“However, it is not clear at this stage how this will operate in cases where the respondent was ordered to reimburse those fees to the claimant.”