Supreme Court Decision – Employment Tribunal Fees 26th July 2017
Wow. In a surprise ruling, the Supreme Court has today determined that Employment Tribunal Fees are unlawful.
To offer some background, Employment Tribunal Fees were introduced in 2013 and were seen as a mechanism to reduce the number of cases being brought to tribunal that were seen as more spurious in nature. However the argument put forward by the Trade Union, Unison, was that fees denied access to justice for employees, particularly those on lower incomes, simply because they could not afford the fee.
In the surprise and humiliating ruling delivered today the Supreme Court agreed with this viewpoint. Commentators are now trying to predict what this will mean in the constantly changing HR and employment landscape as the government now finds itself in the position of having to issue refunds to claimants as well as deciding how to respond to the ruling whilst not holding a majority in parliament. I doubt many MP’s would be keen to vote on future legislation that revisits the contentious issue of Tribunal Fees without a clear majority.
There is also the question of how to deal with potential claimants who may not have brought claims to the employment tribunal previously because of the cost of the fee now seeking legal advice with regards to seeking a time extension to bring their case to Tribunal.
This in turn brings the potential impact for employers as they brace themselves for historical claims that previously may have been deemed ‘out of time’ as well as being faced with the knowledge that employees will no longer be ‘put off’ by the up front fee for bringing their case to Tribunal. Will this make employers more likely to conciliate at the early stages with disgruntled employees? We can but wait and see…