The Fee Regime prior to the Ruling:
Since July 2013, all employees (“Claimants”) pursuing an Employment Tribunal case have had to pay both an Issue Fee (up to £250) and a Hearing Fee (up to £950) before their case is considered by an Employment Judge.
Unless the Tribunal Fees are paid on time, the Claimant would likely find that their case is rejected by the Tribunal.
Since the introduction of these fees, the Tribunal have seen a 70% drop in the number of Claimants pursuing their employment claims as the fees often act as a discouragement to Claimants who often find themselves suffering financially (as they are unemployed) and are therefore unable to pay the fees to progress the matter – denying them the right to have their case heard before a Judge.
Today’s judgment marks the ends of a drawn-out battle by Unison to overturn the Tribunal fees on the basis that the imposition of these fees amounted to indirect discrimination against women and limits access to justice under common law and EU law.
In addition to the ruling that the Fees Regime is unlawful, the Government will now have to refund those fees paid since the introduction of fees in 2013, estimated to amount to £30 million. This in itself will amount to a mammoth task for the Tribunals.
What does this mean for Claimants?
As of this afternoon, Claimants who are presenting their claim forms in person are no longer required to pay the fee. It is, however unclear what the future holds for Tribunal fees and it is unlikely that the fees will be abolished entirely.
One possibility is that the Fees will be tailored to mirror those of a Small Claims Court, which are significantly less. Another possibility is that fees could be imposed on the Respondent (the Employer) if they submit a defence.
The ruling will inevitably have a knock-on effect on both current and future cases. It is possible that a greater number of Claimant’s may see their cases settling at an earlier stage, perhaps even during the Early Conciliation process via ACAS prior to issuing their claims with the Employment Tribunal, as the Respondents will know that the existing deterrent of Tribunal Fees will no longer discourage Claimants from pursuing their case.
It is currently unknown how the reimbursement of fees paid since July 2013 will be dealt with and an update in relation to this aspect is expected to follow.
The ruling marks a significant triumph for the Claimants and we are inevitable going to see the number of Tribunal claims escalate as a result.
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