Tribunal ruling could be “very bad news” for employers

Kate Brooks, Senior Associate Solicitor, Ellis Jones Solicitors.

A ruling that fees for people bringing employment tribunal claims are unlawful could be “very bad news for employers” according to a Dorset solicitor.

In a unanimous judgement, the Supreme Court decided fees of up £1,200 introduced in 2013 to reduce the number of malicious and weak cases should be halted.

Following the ruling, the Ministry of Justice said the government would take immediate steps to stop charging and refund payments. The repayments to claimants could cost up to £32m.

Trade union Unison had argued the fees, which led to a 79 per cent reduction in tribunal claims over three years, prevented workers accessing justice.

The Supreme Court ruled the government was acting unlawfully and unconstitutionally when it introduced the fees.

Employment law expert Kate Brooks, a senior associate solicitor with Dorset and New Forest law firm Ellis Jones Solicitors, said the ruling was “a huge victory for Unison.”

She added: “It will be interesting to see what the government propose following this decision. It is possible that lower fees and one category of fee may be imposed; employers may be required to pay fees or they may revert to claims being free as was the case before the regime was imposed.

“On the face of it, this decision is very bad news for employers, however the following should be considered:

  1. The impact may not be so drastic because it has been possible for employees to claim a fee remission if they are on certain qualifying benefits, or have limited income;
  2. The introduction of mandatory ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) pre-claim conciliation has also led to a reduction in the claims actually lodged in the tribunal. I think it likely that employers will be more willing to settle claims through ACAS before the claim is lodged rather than testing to see if the employee will actually go ahead and pay to bring a claim; and
  3. Vexatious employee claimants should also be aware that while each party pays their own costs in a tribunal claim, the tribunals are more and more willing to make costs awards against claimant employees bringing spurious claims.

“In respect of an appeal to Europe it is still possible before March 2019 to do this. However, my opinion is this would be futile in light of Brexit, the unanimous decision of the Supreme court judges, and the costs involved,” Kate added.


Note to journalists: Ellis Jones is one of the largest law firms in Dorset and West Hampshire with more than 140 staff including 12 partners. It has offices in Bournemouth, Canford Cliffs (Poole), Ringwood, Swanage, Wimborne and London offering a wide range of services to individuals and businesses.

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