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Employment tribunal fees unlawful

Latest update (9 August 2017)

The President of the Employment Tribunal has issued a statement which puts on hold any Employment Tribunal applications which rely on the decision of the Supreme Court ruling on tribunal fees.  This includes applications to reinstate claims which were previously dismissed or struck out under the previous fee-paying regime, for the non-payment of the tribunal fee. The announcement states that applications will be stayed until the Ministry of Justice and HM Courts & Tribunal Service have decided how to handle them. Click here to view the statement.



In a landmark case, the Supreme Court has ruled that employment tribunal fees are unlawful, and that the government will now have to repay up to £32m to individuals who have paid tribunal fees since 2013.

Since the ruling was announced on 26 July, the government has acted quickly, and employment tribunals are now already accepting physical forms without a fee.

Background to employment tribunal fees

In 2013, the coalition government introduced fees for anyone wanting to make an employment claim against their employer – the fee was up to £1,200. This was introduced with the aim of reducing the number of weak and vexatious cases.  However, over the last 3 years, it reduced the number of cases by around 79%.

Employment tribunal fees ranged between £390 and £1,200 and since they were introduced they have raised about £32m. However, when the fees were introduced the government had voluntarily agreed to reimburse all costs if it was found that they have been acting unlawfully, which is now the case.

The Supreme Court case

The case was brought by trade union, Unison, who argued that the fees prevented workers accessing justice.

In this extraordinary case, the Supreme Court has now ruled that the government was indeed acting unlawfully and unconstitutionally when it introduced the fees. They ruled that the fees should no longer apply with immediate effect.

The effect on your organisation

The government have stopped charging fees and will begin the process of reimbursing those who have paid to bring claims in the past.

There is still much which isn’t clear moving forward – issues like how refunds will be made and whether employers who have lost claims and been ordered to pay the employee’s fee will receive the fee back.

However, it does seem likely that there will be an immediate increase in new employment tribunal cases – so it’s important that your organisation is prepared.

Ensuring that employment documentation (like your Staff Handbook and employment contracts) are up to date, and training managers on how to deal with disciplinary, absence, and grievance hearings will be important.

For more information on this and to discuss training options and ways of protecting your business, please contact Nic Elliott on 0115 9 100 200 or click here to send an email.

Posted on August 2, 2017

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