Until July 2013 claimants could institute claims in the Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal simply by filing the appropriate forms and without paying any issue fee. Fees were introduced in July 2013 by the Employment Tribunals and the Employment Appeals Tribunal Fees Order 2013 – and immediately we saw a sharp decline in the number of claims new being issued. New claims fell from approximately 13,500 individual claims being received by the Employment Tribunals per quarter to an average of 4,400 claims per quarter from October 2013 onwards.
Cynics said that this was because many of the claims previously issued were spurious claims being issued by claimants in an effort to exert pressure on their employers in the hope of settlement. Others, including Unison, were concerned that the introduction of fees (both issue fees and hearing fees) meant that many genuine claimants were being denied access to justice because they could not afford to pay the fee required in order to issue a claim or bring it to a hearing.
Unison sought judicial review of the Fees Order and whilst the lower courts dismissed Unison’s claims the Supreme Court has today allowed UNISON’s appeal and held that fees imposed in respect of proceedings in Employment Tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal are unlawful because of their effects on access to justice.
The Ministry of Justice has said that it will take immediate steps to stop charging fees in Employment Tribunals and put in place a system to refund those fees that have been paid.