Supreme Court rules employment tribunal fees to be unlawful

As you may be aware from Civil Service World  and other media reports e.g. The Guardian, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Government acted unlawfully when it introduced fees for employment tribunals. In another major legal victory won by a trade union after the recent PCS success in the High Court (which we reported on yesterday), Ministers will now both scrap these charges and have to pay back tens of millions of pounds.

In its ruling on the case brought by Unison, the Supreme Court judges described the fall in claims as “so sharp, so substantial and so sustained” and observed that the fees imposed could not reasonably be afforded by those on low to middle incomes. They also said fees had deterred genuine cases – and that access to justice is of value to society as a whole because rulings can set important legal principles. In response, the Ministry of Justice said that it “will take immediate steps to stop charging employment tribunal fees and refund those who have paid”.

General secretary Mark Serwotka commented

“This is a major victory for trade unions and the people we represent….We congratulate Unison for pursuing this case all the way to the Supreme Court, and we will be taking immediate legal advice about seeking redress for our members who have been affected over the years”.

PCS opposed the introduction in 2013 of tribunal fees of up to £1200 arguing that they would restrict members’ access to justice. This regressive step took place alongside cuts to legal aid; the closure of courts and tribunal centres; and reductions to the facility time which local union representatives can spend in resolving workplace issues without the need to rely on legal proceedings.

The full judgement is available at the Supreme Court website and a two page press summary