‘Could a single mother who works full-time in a secretarial role at a university “realistically afford” to bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal?’

This question and others were considered by the Court of Appeal (the ‘COA’) over the summer in UNISON’s legal challenge to Employment Tribunal fees. Unfortunately for the Appellants, the COA decided that ‘yes she could’. Although it would be difficult, the COA considered that it would not be impossible for her to afford the fee and therefore there was no barrier to justice. Another issue raised was that the single mother referred to was a hypothetical example and the COA disagreed that there was sufficient evidence to show that real life claimants had been unable to present claims as they were unable to afford the fee.

The startling statistic that 79% fewer claims were accepted by the Employment Tribunal over the same periods pre and post the introduction of fees was also not enough to make the case for a lack of ‘realistic affordability’. The statistics, it was decided, do not speak for themselves.

UNISON is currently seeking permission to appeal to the Supreme Court, but, given the decision of the COA, it would seem that they will need to re-think their argument.

The Ministry of Justice has also opened a review into the impact of Employment Tribunal fees and we await its report anticipated later this year.

UNISON will no doubt be hoping that their persistence will pay off and that, either by virtue of the MoJ review or the Supreme Court challenge, Employment Tribunal fees will be abolished as was recently announced in Scotland.