62: The end of Employment Tribunal fees?
Yesterday the Supreme Court handed down its judgement in the case of Unison v The Lord Chancellor, in which Unison challenged the legality of the need for employee claimants to pay fees to bring Employment Tribunal claims. The decision was soundly in favour of Unison’s grounds of appeal and will be welcomed by other unions and other employee groups who view Tribunal fees as restricting access to justice and the cause of the dramatic slump in Employment Tribunal claims. This decision may not mean the end of fees altogether though as the current government is likely to look at other ways of funding the Employment Tribunals such as reducing the level of fees to make them more affordable and widening the application of the fee remission scheme. However, given the fact that fees were also found to be indirectly discriminatory the government’s room for manoeuvre may be limited. For employers there may be a fear that the decision will result in a flood of claims although the introduction of ACAS early conciliation and the increase in the length of employment necessary for unfair dismissal claims have also had an impact in this area. Nonetheless a considerable exercise will now need to be undertaken to repay fees, and if Tribunal fees for employees are to be relaxed this will remove a major obstacle which has prevented many employees bringing Tribunal claims over the last few years.