Since 2013, employees have had to pay a fee of up to £1,200 to take their employer to a tribunal. This led to a drop of around 70% in the number of claims, enabling some employers to take a robust approach to employee relations because of the heavily reduced risk of a claim.
The Supreme Court has now ruled these tribunal fees were unlawful, on the grounds that when parliament confers employment rights on individuals, the Lord Chancellor cannot effectively take them away by introducing prohibitively high fees. All fees paid by employees between 2013 and now will be refunded by the government.
Where does that leave employers?
First, it is unlikely that fees will disappear entirely. We think the government will probably bring in a different fees regime, with lower fees and possibly with employers contributing to the cost at the outset. But we don’t know any details yet.
Second, any employees who might have brought claims between 2013 and 2017, but who were put off by the fees, can now seek permission to bring them ‘out of time’. This will be easier with discrimination cases than unfair dismissal cases, but there will inevitably be a large number of such cases brought by ex-employees.