Massive win’ for UNISON on ‘unlawful’ tribunal fees

Fees for those bringing employment tribunal claims have been ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court, following a long running legal challenge by the public service UNISON.  The government will now have to repay up to £32m to claimants. It introduced the fees in 2013, saying the measure was intended to reduce the number of malicious and weak cases, but that led to a 79 per cent reduction over three years. Victimisation for raising safety concerns fell into the highest cost band, with a £1,200 fee to take a case. UNISON argued that the fees denied workers access to justice. In a ruling delivered on 26 July, the Supreme Court also found fees were indirectly discriminatory to women. It said the government was acting unlawfully and unconstitutionally when it introduced the fees. UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Today’s Supreme Court ruling is the most significant judicial intervention in the history of British employment law. This result is a massive win for our union and a massive win for all workers, whether they’re UNISON members or not. Working people who need protection the most – low-paid workers, the vulnerable and those treated poorly by their employers –  were denied access to justice by employment tribunal fees.” He added the ruling by the country’s top court “should bring to an end the cruel employment tribunal fees regime, and ensure that no-one else is ever forced to pay crippling fees just to access basic justice. But it is also a reminder of the importance of trade unions in fighting for all of our rights, and the importance of a legal system that allows us to stand with our members, and win for our members.” TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Too many low-paid workers couldn’t afford to uphold their rights at work, even when they’ve faced harassment or have been sacked unfairly. Tribunal fees have been a bonanza for bad bosses, giving them free rein to mistreat staff. Any fees paid so far should be refunded as soon as possible.”