At the end of March this year, the UK Supreme Court heard an appeal brought by trade union UNISON as part of its legal challenge to the introduction of employment tribunal fees. 

The trade union had been given permission by the Supreme Court to bring its appeal after it lost its case at the Court of Appeal in August 2015.

Employment tribunal fees were introduced in July 2013. Fees start at around £160 to issue a type A claim, such as a wages claims or breach of contract, and £250 for a type B claim, which includes cases of unfair dismissal or discrimination. There’s also a further hearing fee of £230 for Type A and £950 for Type B claims. Appeals at employment appeal tribunals also attract a £400 lodging and £1,200 hearing fee.

In January this year, the Government produced its long-awaited review of the impact of fees. It showed there’d been a 70% drop in the number of cases since July 2013. According to UNISON, low-paid women, especially those treated unfairly when they were pregnant or on maternity leave, have been the biggest losers.

UNISON’s case to the Supreme Court claimed that the Government’s decision to demand a fee from anyone taking their employer to court has stopped many thousands of badly treated employees – especially those on low incomes – from getting justice.

“The Government originally said making people pay would weed out vexatious claims,” commented UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis. “All it’s done is penalise lower paid employees with genuine grievances. That’s why it’s so important our legal challenge succeeds.”

The Supreme Court’s decision on this matter will be of great interest to the Government, and employers and employees alike.

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