The government will be scrapping tribunal fees and reimbursing claimants up to £32m after losing a Supreme Court battle against the union Unison, which ruled that the fees are unlawful.
Unison argued in its case, which was heard on 27 and 28 March 2017, that the fees prevented workers accessing justice. The Supreme Court ruled that the government was acting unlawfully and unconstitutionally when it introduced the fees and the Ministry of Justice said the government would take immediate steps to stop charging and refund payments.
The government introduced fees of up to £1,200 in 2013 to reduce the number of malicious and weak cases, which led to a 79% reduction over three years, although the BPIF recently reported that there had been an increase in tribunal activity of around 15% over the past year.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said that the government had been acting unlawfully, “not just on simple economics, but on constitutional law and basic fairness too”.
Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke called the result a “massive victory” for the Trade Union movement.
Speaking to PrintWeek, Burke said: “This was an attack on Trade Unions to weaken unions and ordinary working people’s ability to get some justice.
"Ordinary people go to work everyday and people get treated badly at work, and when it does happen you should have your opportunity to put your case. It’s a great result and you can see from the media already that it was a disgraceful decision to bring it in in the first place.”
Nicola Langley, head of BPIF Legal, said: “All we can say is that it is difficult to predict exactly what the outcome will be, however I think it is inevitable that the number of tribunal cases will increase in response to today’s decision.”
The fees for tribunals differed depending on the seriousness of the claim. For cases related to unpaid wages, redundancy pay or breach of contract, the claim fee was £160 and hearing fee was £230. For unfair dismissal, equal pay, discrimination or whistleblowing, claim fee was £250 and hearing fee was £950.