The Supreme Court has quashed the Fees Order which introduced fees to the employment tribunal service in 2013 (R (on the application of UNISON) -v- Lord Chancellor). Claims can now be filed by claimants without paying a fee. Individuals who have paid fees over the last four years will be reimbursed – a total of £32m has been paid in fees over the last four years, so this is a significant logistical challenge. Further details of how this will be achieved in practical terms are expected. Respondents who were unsuccessful at tribunal and were ordered to pay the claimant’s fees will also be entitled to be reimbursed.
There is some suggestion that the usual three month time limit might be extended for those individuals who can show that they were unable to bring a claim because of the fees, and/or those who started proceedings but were unable to continue after their application for remission was rejected. The tribunal does have discretion to extend the deadline in limited circumstances. Further guidance on this topic is awaited.
At the moment, the government has not made any proposal about re-introducing fees at a lower level. The Supreme Court acknowledged that a fee could be a legitimate way of helping to fund the system – but the old regime was set at a level that threatened access to justice. This leaves the possibility open that a lower fee might not have the same effect, although the government has not yet given any indication that it plans to re-introduce fees.