In what is being described as one of the biggest decisions in the history of employment law, on 26 July 2017, the Supreme Court has ruled in favour of UNISON, declaring Employment Tribunal (and Employment Appeal Tribunal) fees are unlawful under both domestic and EU Law.
Tribunal fees will be abolished with immediate effect and the Lord Chancellor has provided an undertaking that all fees which were paid in the past must be reimbursed.
In providing its judgment, the Supreme Court commented on the fundamental public importance of providing access to justice for all, whereas the introduction of the Tribunal fees system on 29 July 2013 led to a decline of 66-70% in the number of Tribunal cases being issued.
While the repeal of the Tribunal fees system does not provide employees or workers with any additional legal rights, it in effect makes seeking a remedy more straight forward and cost-effective.
In light of this new development, employers need to exercise even greater care to ensure employment related matters are dealt with in accordance with relevant legislation, particularly in relation to termination and discrimination issues.
We now expect to see an increase in the level of claims commenced in the Employment Tribunal by lower income employees and workers, including those matters which have only limited prospects of success but which litigants may be encouraged to pursue for the mere nuisance value in the hope of securing a quick settlement.