Employment tribunal fee 'not unlawful' is welcome news for employers

An employment solicitor has welcomed a High Court ruling that the introduction of fees for bringing employment tribunal claims was not unlawful as good news for employers.

The lawfulness of tribunal fees was challenged by the trade union UNISON immediately after being implemented. The challenge was brought on several grounds including the fact that the introduction of fees makes it excessively difficult to exercise rights conferred by EU law and they were discriminatory and unlawful. The High Court dismissed all the challenges made by UNISON.

UNISON provided evidence that since the fees were introduced, the number of employment tribunal cases has dropped significantly, which the High Court described as “dramatic”. The High Court considered whether the fees created a bar on access to justice for those treated unfairly by employers and held that whilst proceedings in the tribunal will be expensive, they will not be so expensive as to make it virtually impossible, or ‘excessively difficult’ to bring a claim.

Emma Newbould, employment solicitor at Forbes Solicitors said: “This decision will come as welcome news for employers and a disappointment to employees who struggle to afford the Tribunal fees but are ineligible for a remission. It was hoped that the introduction of fees would discourage vexatious claims which take up valuable tribunal and employer resources and encourage people to look at alternatives such as mediation with the tribunal becoming a last resort – something that looks to be being achieved according to the dramatic drop in the number of tribunal cases.” As fees were only introduced in July last year, the court felt a decision could not be made before the full impact of fees could be judged. The High Court expects the government to keep this issue under review and to revoke or amend the scheme if UNISON’s arguments are borne out.