UNISON granted permission to appeal against ‘punitive’ employment tribunal fees

UNISON has been granted permission by the Court of Appeal to proceed with appeals against the decisions of the High Court refusing its two Judicial Review applications challenging the lawfulness of employment tribunal fees.

UNISON has secured permission to appeal on all grounds. 

These appeals will be heard together in June.

The Lord Chancellor agreed in the first Judicial Review claim that he would reimburse all fees that have been paid, if they are found to be unlawful.

UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis said: “Today’s decision is significant because every worker who has been forced to pay these punitive fees may get their money back if UNISON’s case is successful. 

“We are pleased that this issue is being taken seriously. We hope the court will recognise that the government’s fees regime is having a significant impact on the ability of workers to access justice, particularly low paid women.”

UNISON has successfully argued that both its appeals should be heard at the same time - at a hearing expected in the middle of June 2015. 

Figures released this month reveal that the numbers of employment tribunal cases are continuing to fall. Between October and December 2014 claims dropped by a further 12 per cent compared with the same quarter in 2013, when the fee regime, introduced in July 2013 was already in place. 

These latest figures prove that the introduction of fees has caused a dramatic reduction in the number of employment tribunal claims,says UNISON.  

Since the fees were introduced in June 2013, claims have fallen by 80 per cent, with sex discrimination claims down by 91 per cent.

Notes to editors 

Fees start at around £160 to issue a claim, rising to £250 a claim depending on the type of claim; with a further hearing fee starting at £230 to £950. Where claims are issued by a group of workers, issue fees for a simpler “Type A” claim with 2-10 claimants are £320 with a hearing fee of £460 (hearing fee). A more complex “Type B claim” with over 200 claimants would require a fee of £1500 (issue fee) and a further £5700 (hearing fee). 

The government’s decision to introduce employment tribunal and employment appeal tribunal fees was challenged by UNISON in the High Court in October 2013 and again in October 2014. The union argued that the introduction of fees would deny access to justice for workers treated unfairly by employers and would therefore be unlawful, and that the introduction of fees has a disproportionate impact on women.

The High Court in the first judicial review appeared to accept the union’s argument, but ruled that because the fees were introduced in July 2013 the full impact could not be judged. In the second Judicial Review, following evidence of a 91 per cent drop in sex discrimination claims, and an overall drop in claims of 80 per cent, the High Court described the extraordinary fall in the number of claims as “striking” and Lord Justice Elias anticipated that some workers would have insufficient funds to bring claims.