Senior London Employment lawyer says Supreme Court ruling on tribunal fees will have far-reaching impact
Donna Martin, Employment and Immigration Partner at one of London’s leading mid-tier law firms Mackrell Turner Garrett, has said that the Supreme Court’s ruling that employment fees are “unlawful” is likely to affect the courts, employers, employees and the legal profession as a whole.
Following a case brought by the union, Unison, the Supreme Court has found that the government had acted unlawfully and unconstitutionally when it introduced the fees in 2013.
Typical fees ranged between £390 and £1,200 and it is thought that the Government raised an additional £32 million in the last three years though their introduction.
The Ministry of Justice has already confirmed that these fees will be refunded to Claimants, while also placing an immediate stop to future charges.
During the hearing, Unison claimed that the introduction of fees had limited employee’s access to justice, but the Court went further saying that it had been indirectly discriminatory to women because they launched a higher proportion of discrimination cases.
Commenting on the ruling, Donna said: “The Supreme Court has ruled this morning that Employment Tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunals Fees Order (“the Order”) effectively prevents access to justice and is therefore unlawful – the Order will be quashed as a result.
“Since 2013 there has been a 70 per cent reduction in employment tribunal claims and I have experienced first-hand situations where clients have, for example, not been paid their correct final salary payment from a former employer and have not been able to pursue a claim as they cannot afford the fees.”
She also confirmed that Mackrell Turner Garrett dealt with cases where Claimants, who have been unfairly dismissed, have accepted far lower settlement sums because they have found the cost of taking their claim to a tribunal too daunting.
“We have also seen a number of employment tribunals being forced to close down over the last few years. Given today’s result it is likely that there may be an increase in future employment claims, my concern is where these cases will be heard and how long it will take for a final hearing to be scheduled,” added Donna.
While the Supreme Court has made it clear that all fees paid between 2013 and now will be refunded by the Lord Chancellor’s Department, Donna has said there are already concerns regarding the significant administrative burden this will place on the tribunal system, which is already struggling due to closures.
“It has yet to be decided how those individuals who decided not to bring claims due to the fees involved will be treated,” said Donna.
“In the vast majority of employment tribunal cases there is a three month limitation period however, the tribunal can extend this period where it is just and equitable to do so. We may therefore see an increase in claims from former would-be claimants placing an additional load onto tribunals.
“However, of more pressing concern for the Employment Tribunals Service will be the need to rewrite the current tribunal rules and to amend the online Claim Forms to ensure that any individual who needs to submit proceedings imminently will not be prevented from doing so.”
She said that as a result of today’s ruling, businesses will need to ensure that they continue to adhere to employment contracts and follow employment legislation, as former employees may now be more prepared to commence a claim if they feel they have been treated unfairly.
If you would like to know more about Mackrell Turner Garrett’s range of employment services, please contact Donna Martin on +44 20 7240 0521 or email Donna.Martin@mackrell.com