The Supreme Court has ruled that the fees – introduced in July 2013 – are unlawful, and thousands of people who paid to take their employers to tribunals will need to be refunded. Fees can be as high as £1,200, and have caused a fall in the overall number of tribunal cases.
The decision is a result of a legal challenge from public service union UNISON. Its general secretary Dave Prentis described the ruling as a “major victory” for employees. “The government is not above the law,” he said. “But when ministers introduced fees they were disregarding laws many centuries old, and showing little concern for employees seeking justice following illegal treatment at work.
“The government has been acting unlawfully, and has been proved wrong – not just on simple economics but on constitutional law and basic fairness too. It’s a major victory for employees everywhere. UNISON took the case on behalf of anyone who’s ever been wronged at work, or who might be in future. Unscrupulous employers no longer have the upper hand.”
This ruling coincides with the publication of the Taylor Review into modern working practices, which called on the government to reduce the cost of tribunal fees but did not go as far as recommending that it abolish them.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4, the report's author Matthew Taylor said that he recommended there should be a free preliminary judgement before proceeding to a full trial. "We recognise in the report that... it would be better if those fees weren’t so high and we encourage the government to continue to look at that issue,” he said.