Access to Justice? Workers are no longer to be unfairly priced out!
Today has marked a ‘FANTASTIC VICTORY’ for employees across the UK, after years of campaigning from Lawyers, Charities, Unions and Social Groups.
The Supreme Court have ruled that workplace tribunal fees are unlawful; their ruling today states that the fees to lodge new tribunal cases are illegal and should be removed immediately.
This is a stark turnaround from the Government’s position, which introduced the fee system back in July 2013 and has left them with a potential hefty bill in repaying back millions of pounds to those affected. (estimated to be around: £27-£32 million).
Unison (the trade union) brought the appeal to the Supreme Court, after unsuccessful attempts at the lower court on the grounds (summarised):
‘The prescribed fees interfere unjustifiably with the right of access to justice under both the common law and EU law, it frustrates legislation, works against employment rights and is discriminatory in nature against protected groups’.
After the introduction of the fees, Employment Tribunal claims fell by 70% and many practitioners cited this, as evidence of how unlawful the introduction of the fees were in denying thousands access to justice.
However, the Government’s position was that the introduced fees are not unjust and serve as an important tool in:
- Transferring the cost burden of tribunals away from taxpayers,
- To prevent unmeritorious claims,
- To encourage earlier settlement.
How much were the Fees?
The amount payable by claimants depend on the type of claim they intend to bring to the Tribunal. They are divided into two categories:
Type A claims:
- Claims which take little or no pre-hearing work and usually require approximately one hour to resolve at the hearing.
- Issue Fee: £160.00 and Hearing Fee: £230.00, Total: (£390.00)
Type B claims:
- Claims which generally require more judicial case management, more pre-hearings, and longer final hearings, because of their greater legal and factual complexity.
- Issue Fee: £250.00 and Hearing Fee: £950.00, Total: (£1200.00)
The Supreme Court’s Judgement:
Lord Reed gave the lead judgement which was unanimously agreed by the rest of the court. The judgement recognised that:
- The Fees are unlawful as there is a real risk that persons will effectively be prevented from having access to justice,
- The Fees bear no relation to the amount sought and in some circumstances, have acted as a deterrent to claims for modest amounts or non-monetary remedies,
- The Fees have been the biggest hurdle for potential claimants and the impact of having to meet the fees has meant claimants have had to restrict expenditure that was ordinary and reasonable for maintaining living standards,
- The Fees contravenes the EU law guarantee of an effective remedy before a tribunal: it imposes disproportionate limitations on the enforcement of EU employment rights,
- The Fees are disproportionate where claims are for modest or non-financial remedies,
- The higher fees for Type B claims (e.g. Discrimination Claims) put women and other protected groups at a distinct disadvantage, especially when the higher fee does not correspond to a greater workload placed on the tribunal.
The Full Judgement can be found: https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2015-0233-judgment.pdf
Liberty Law Solicitors applaud the outcome and have long advocated for the fees to be scrapped. The shock decision by the Supreme Court is a ruling for Social Fairness and Access to Justice for future claimants and to the thousands who have borne the brunt of the unlawful fees!
We urge all our past client’s and anyone else who have paid Employment Tribunal Fees in the past to reclaim their refund.
IF YOU REQUIRE ANY ASSISTANCE IN OBTAINING YOUR REFUND, CALL US TODAY!