HR Alert: Employment tribunal fees ruled as unlawful

  • Date: 27 September 2017

A RISE in employment tribunal claims is anticipated after the Supreme Court ruled that employment tribunal fees are unlawful as they prevent access to justice for workers.

As a result, the government will have to refund up to £32 million to those charged for taking claims to tribunal since July 2013, when fees were introduced.

Workers in the UK had been charged a fee to bring a claim to an employment tribunal. A further fee was also charged if the claim was heard and another fee to appeal the decision. However, statistics revealed that the number of tribunals had fallen as much as 70 per cent since the charges were introduced.

The Supreme Court handed down its judgment in July and ruled unanimously that employment tribunal fees were unlawful. This landmark decision was made in light of the fact that employment tribunal fees were not reasonably affordable for households on middle to low incomes.

Trade union Unison argued that the fees of up to £1,200 discriminated against workers and prevented access to justice. Unison had also argued that the tribunal fees indirectly discriminated against some specific groups or workers, particularly females as they tend to experience the most work-related discrimination, specifically in relation to sex and maternity.

So what happens next? As well as refunding those who have brought a case since the fees were introduced in July 2013, the government may try to pass a new statute for tribunal fees or a new proportionate based scheme.

It is likely that with the new gender pay reporting legislation, there may be an increase in equal pay claims, highlighted by the recent issues with workers at the BBC. It is also suggested that one in four women will have at some point experienced maternity-related discrimination so there is a strong chance that claims in this area will rise.

If you have any questions on this and what it may mean for your practice, please contact one of our employment law advisers on 0333 043 4444 or email

This page was correct at the time of publication. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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