HR NEWS: Employment Tribunal fees are unlawful, Supreme Court rules

  • Employment Tribunal fees are unlawful because of their effects on access to justice
  • 86,130 cases were brought to a tribunal in 2015/16
  • A total of £11.6m was paid in fees for a tribunal in 2016/17
  • Previous claimants will be refunded £32m in fees
  • Employees had to pay from £390 – £1,200 to get a hearing
  • Appeals of tribunals started at £1,600
  • The Supreme Court said it was a ‘constitutional rights’ issue to have access to the courts
  • Trade union Unison brought the case against the government’s 2013 introduction of fees
  • The government have said they’ll be stopping charging fees very soon

This is a real shock decision that not many people were expecting.

What does this mean for your business?

The government have now confirmed they’ll be taking ‘immediate steps’ to stop charging and setup refunds for the £32m in fees already paid. This will mean more employees will be more likely to take their employers to a tribunal if they feel they have a case. Managing the relationship with employees, especially as they leave the business, will become even more important to avoid a tribunal. 

The employment tribunal fees of between £390 and £1,200 were introduced in 2013 and have seen a 79% decrease of cases being brought. The Acas conciliation service said two-thirds of the employees it advised that could have gone to a tribunal didn’t do so because of the cost. The prospect of no-cost tribunals will likely see a significant increase in the number of cases.

What are people saying? 

Unison, the trade union that brought the appeal to the Supreme Court said: “The government is not above the law. But when ministers introduced fees, they were disregarding laws many centuries old, and showing little concern for employees seeking justice following illegal treatment at work.”

Government ministers are avoiding the subject when quizzed by the press.

What do we think?

Employment tribunal fees have always priced employees out of justice. Fairness and equality are paramount in HR and we’ve always been against the implementation of the fees. A good relationship between employer and employee prevents tribunals and managing people effectively can help.

What should I do?

Don’t panic. While it’s likely there will be more tribunals, you can easily avoid the risk by getting professional and sound guidance from your local HR Dept.

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Preventing People Problems

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