The Court of Appeal has dismissed Unison’s challenge to the introduction of fees in the Employment Tribunal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT).
In this case, Unison challenged the Tribunal fee system on the basis that fees prevented claimants from having access to justice and an effective remedy, that the fee regime was indirectly discriminatory against women and that the Lord Chancellor had failed to satisfy the public sector equality duty. All these arguments were rejected by the Court of Appeal.
In particular, the appeal failed due to the lack of evidence as to the impact of fees on individual claimants. The dramatic decline in the volume of claims being brought was not on its own sufficient evidence to establish that claimants were unable to pay the fees and were therefore prevented from having access to justice. In addition, although a larger number of women than men may be obliged to pay the higher fee for discrimination claims, the Court of Appeal held that the two tier system was objectively justifiable. It reflected the greater demand placed on Tribunal resources by these types of claim.
What does this mean?
Unison has sought permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. In the meantime, a formal review on the impact of Tribunal fees by the Ministry of Justice is underway and is expected to be completed later this year.
Case reference: R (Unison) v Lord Chancellor and another