UNISON’s legal team win top honour for employment tribunal fees court case

Judges commend Supreme Court victory as ‘a result that makes a real difference to a great many people’

UNISON’s in-house legal team have won yet another award for its landmark victory in the Supreme Court last year, when the union defeated the government over its introduction of employment tribunal fees.

It was voted Litigation Team of the Year in The Lawyer magazine’s prestigious annual awards on Tuesday, for “great tenacity and perseverance and a result that makes a real difference to a great many people.”

In 2013 the then Lord Chancellor introduced tribunal fees that effectively denied members their access to justice in the employment courts.

UNISON’s single-handed, four-year legal battle to reverse that decision spanned six unsuccessful hearings – three in the High Court and three in the Court of Appeal – before the Supreme Court unanimously found in the union’s favour.

As one awards judge commented: “This case changed the law at the highest level and rolled back a change that was denying workers access to justice.

“The approach by UNISON shows real grit in developing evidence where there was none and getting the case re-heard on new evidence.”

The judges noted the determination shown by UNISON legal officer Shantha David, who ran the case, in seeking evidence through Freedom of Information requests and a “dogged pursuit” of the Lord Chancellor’s team.

UNISON’s head of legal Adam Creme, who collected the award with Ms David, said today: “This award is given not by faceless bureaucrats but is judged by the UK’s legal profession. All lawyers want desperately to win it.

“I am proud to work with and for the UK’s best legal team, bar none, and to serve our members.”

In 2014 UNISON won The Lawyer’s Best Employment Team award, for bringing the claim against the government. Then in 2016 there was another employment team gong, from The Solicitor’s Journal. And after the  Supreme Court victory Mr Creme was named Lawyer of the Year by Liberty.