Government owes workers millions one year on from employment tribunal win, says UNISON

Thousands of people treated unfairly at work have still not been refunded hundreds of pounds they paid out to take their employers to court, says UNISON today (Thursday).

It is a year today since a landmark Supreme Court decision led to the scrapping of employment tribunal fees, following a successful legal case brought by UNISON.

But since then, the government has refunded just £6.6m despite collecting £32m in fees from claimants who had previously paid to take their cases to an employment tribunal.

The latest official tribunals statistics reveal that claims have soared since last summer’s case, proving that the controversial fees had acted as a huge barrier to justice, says UNISON.

According to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), a total of 9,252 single claims were brought against employers from January 2018 to the end of March. This is more than double the number received between October 2013 and June 2017, when people had to pay to take a case to an employment tribunal, says UNISON.

However, cutbacks affecting tribunal services have led to long delays with 89% of cases still waiting to be heard.

UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: “The introduction of tribunal fees was not this government’s finest hour. Making people who’d been discriminated against, or treated unfairly, shell out before they could seek justice was unlawful and unconstitutional. It’s a decision that has also cost taxpayers dearly.

“We’ll probably never know how many unscrupulous employers were let off the hook because the pursuit of justice was too expensive for the staff they’d treated so badly.

“When UNISON took this case, it was on the side of working people everywhere. As a result, employers who break the law are now more likely to be held to account.

“Putting right this huge wrong should have happened faster. The government must make much more of an effort to pay back the money it owes to thousands of people, and promise never again to introduce such a huge barrier to justice.”

Notes to editors:
– Fees were introduced in July 2013 by the then Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling. Anyone in England, Scotland and Wales who wanted to pursue a case against their employer then had to find up to £1,200 to bring a tribunal complaint, and a further £1,600 to appeal.
– The Supreme Court ruled unanimously on 26 July 2017 that the government was acting unlawfully and unconstitutionally when it introduced the fees.
– The number of single claims received between October 2013 and June 2017 (after fees were introduced and prior to their abolition) was around 4,300 per quarter, according to official statistics.

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