Employment tribunal fees ruled unlawful

The Supreme Court has ruled that fees for those bringing employment tribunal claims, which could also include claims brought against employers and recruiters for discrimination during the recruitment process, are unlawful.

 

The British government introduced tribunal fees in 2013 in a bid to cut the number of malicious and weak cases, but that led to a 79% reduction over three years.

The BBC reports that government will now have to repay up to £32m to claimants.

The Supreme Court ruled government was acting unlawfully and unconstitutionally when it introduced the fees, also finding fees were indirectly discriminatory to women, with fees ranging between £390 and £1,200 to get a case heard at a hearing and discrimination cases costing more for claimants owing to the complexity and duration of hearings.

Trade union Unison argued that fees prevented workers getting access to justice, adding that some would-be claimants would be deterred from bringing cases to tribunals because paying the fees would render any financial reward pointless.

Recruiters and employers can be brought to tribunal if they use stereotypes relating to any of the protected characteristics such as gender, age or race when placing adverts on behalf of clients.

Commenting on today's ruling, Recruitment & Employment Confederation CEO Kevin Green, said: “Fair treatment at work and equal access to justice is the foundation of a modern, successful labour market. 

“The government needs to think again about its management of the tribunal system. As we predicted at the time, the imposition of these fees deterred too many people from seeking redress against bad corporate behaviour. However, ministers must keep in mind that the system wasn’t perfect before and that significant backlogs of cases and too many vexatious claims caused unjust delays for legitimate complainants. They need to strike a balance where workers’ rights are protected and compliant businesses are not burdened by having to address spurious cases.”

Also commenting on the ruling, Chris Holme, employment partner at law firm Clyde & Co, said its practical impact is that the fees must now fall away, “with the government presumably considering what it may put in place to replace the current system, if anything”.
 

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