Supreme Court has ruled that workplace tribunal fees are unlawful.

This ruling is “a major victory for employees everywhere”.

The Supreme Court found the employment fees are indirectly discriminatory because a higher proportion of women would bring discrimination cases.

Unison took the case on behalf of anyone who’s ever been wronged at work, or who might be in future. Unscrupulous employers no longer have the upper hand.

Since 2013, anyone in England, Scotland and Wales wanting to pursue a case against an employer has had to pay up to £1,200. Claim fees for unpaid wages, redundancy pay and breach of contract could set a worker back £160 plus an additional £230 for a hearing fee. For other claims, such as unfair dismissal, equal pay, discrimination and whistle blowing, the claim fee had been £250 plus £950 for the hearing. These hefty fees had effectively been stripping employees of the ability to enforce their rights.

Far from dissuading workers from bringing hopeless cases, all the introduction of the tribunal fees did was to discourage genuine litigants from pursuing their employment rights, simply on the basis that they cannot afford to pursue their employer.

Since the fees were introduced around four years ago, and since then there have been reports of a huge drop in the number of cases being started in the Employment Tribunals, so this ruling would have major implications for the courts, Government and employers and workers across all sectors. The Government will be forced to repay more than £27m forked out by employees for cases around unfair dismal, discrimination and other workplace issues since July 2013. We will have to wait to for further details as to the mechanics of how these fees can be reclaimed.

This decision is extremely likely to result in an increase in the numbers of employment tribunal claims brought, but more over it will or it should make employers “sit up and think”. Employment laws are in place for a reason, and that reason is not to permit employers to have the upper hand, so to put employees in fear of losing their jobs for breathing in the wrong direction.
I absolutely agree that these unfair fees have let law-breaking bosses off the hook these past four years, and left badly treated staff with no choices but to “put up or shut up”.

A business is only as good as its people and some employers would do well to remember that now their “affordability” comfort blanket has been taken away.

If you’d like advice on an employment tribunal or any aspect of employment law, get in touch with our employment law team, or find out more about our employment law services here.