1st Mar 2016

The battle to scrap employment tribunal fees rumbles on

In the latest instalment of Unison’s ongoing challenge, the Supreme Court has granted the trade union permission to appeal the Court of Appeal’s decision and continue in its battle to scrap employment tribunal fees.

Back in August last year, the Court of Appeal decided that Unison had unsuccessfully argued that fees prevented claimants from having access to justice and that the regime was indirectly discriminatory. While the Court of Appeal recognised the dramatic decline in the volume of claims being brought in the employment tribunal, it concluded that there was insufficient evidence to show that claimants were unable to pay the fees and therefore being denied access to justice. Appeal dismissed.

Now Unison has another chance to continue with its challenge to the Supreme Court thanks to last Friday’s decision.

Since being introduced in July 2013, the number of employment claims being brought has plummeted year on year as workers have to find fees of between £160 and £1,200 depending on the type of claim (to cover the issue and hearing fee), before they can go through the tribunal.

Coupled with the need for a potential claimant to first go through early conciliation with ACAS (introduced in May 2014) before being able to lodge a claim, fees are definitely to the employer’s advantage as the reality of tribunal proceedings being brought against them fades away.

With the hearing date still to be confirmed, I can’t help thinking that Unison’s next appeal to the Supreme Court is likely to fail, and that employment tribunal fees are here to stay in some form or another, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Written by Mike Patterson of Berwins Solicitors.

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