In what is being called a dramatic ruling, The Supreme Court have ruled in favour of Unison, against the Government, agreeing that tribunal fees are unlawful and must be scrapped. On the back of this those that have paid to bring a case to tribunal since July 2013 will be refunded.
The Supreme Court judges decided that the fees were preventing access to Justice and indirectly discriminatory towards women, who were more likely to bring serious and costly cases to court and therefore this contravened EU Law.
Although originally the fees were implemented to deter false claims, reduce costs to taxpayers and prevent a backlog in the system, many groups have fought against the fees claiming it would allow employers to mistreat their employees with less fear of repercussions. This was especially a concern for employers who employed minimum wage and/or part-time employees.
Going forward it is likely that the amount of claims brought to tribunal will increase, however some experts believe that employers may now be more inclined to settle these matters during ACAS conciliation or before tribunal.
Estimates place the refunds to be in the region of £27 million and many people believe that the government will look to try and get a parliamentary act through to change the system again rather than use the secondary legislation route which they used originally. BUT based on the current political environment, and with the labour and liberal democratic parties being against the fees, it is unlikely that this would pass through parliament.
As there are fewer barriers for employees to bring a claim against an employer once again, it is vital that employers act fairly and follow the ACAS code of conduct when it comes to the treatment of their employees and the procedures they follow.
To contact us regarding any HR concerns you may have please get in touch on 01302 341344.
By Kris Kerins Cert CII– Risk Services Adviser