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Friday 8 September 2017

Employment Law Bulletin September 2017

Back in 2013 the coalition government introduced Employment Tribunal fees. For the first time, it became necessary for individuals to pay an ‘issue fee’ (to issue a claim) and a ‘hearing fee’ (if the case went to trial). It could cost an individual £1,200 per claim in fees alone to take their employer to a trial at a Tribunal.

UNISON (the union) immediately challenged the introduction of Employment Tribunal fees in court because fees impeded their members’ ability to enforce their rights as employees. Indeed, following the introduction of fees, the number of claims brought by individuals dropped by around 70%. The government won in the High Court and the Court of Appeal but UNISON won in the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court said that by introducing fees, the government had acted in a way which went beyond the powers granted to it by Parliament. It said that access to justice is fundamental to the rule of law; if laws protecting employees cannot be enforced, the laws are meaningless and become “dead letter”. It said by introducing fees, the government had prevented access to justice in a disproportionate way. The Supreme Court ruled that the requirement to pay fees was void ab initio – as if it had never existed.

The Ministry of Justice will now have to repay fees that it has received to date (said to total around £30m).

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