Yesterday it was declared by the Supreme Court that tribunal fees are unlawful and that all fees paid (amounting to as much as £27 million) over the last four years are to be refunded.
Unison brought the case to the Supreme Court after losing it’s case at the High Court and the Court of Appeal. They challenged the government’s decision to introduce tribunal fees under a piece of secondary legislation in July 2013.
My Twitter feed went nuts yesterday as the ruling was announced and has divided many opinions. Some were pleased at the ruling and agreed that it is indeed unlawful; whilst others thought it could open the floodgates to unnecessary tribunal claims.
Lord Reed advised that employment tribunals “are intended to provide a forum for the enforcement of employment rights by employees and workers, including the low paid, those who have recently lost their jobs and those who are vulnerable to long-term unemployment”. Therefore the judges concluded that the fees were preventing access to justice.
The ruling announced that the charges were indirectly discriminatory towards women, who were more likely to bring a more costly and serious case, and were in breach of EU law.
In the light of this landmark decision, the lord chancellor will be quashing the order that introduced the fees, which can amount to as much as £1,200 for a single claim, and refunds will be issued to those who previously paid to bring a case.
A poll set up by People Management advised that 70% of people were pleased at the result; so what do you all think? Feel free to put your comments below.
So it is now a case of watch this space to find out how fees will be refunded (and who indeed will be funding them); what steps employers need to take to protect themselves from risk and what action the Government will take from here.
It certainly is interesting times.