UNISON to appeal High Court decision over tribunal fees

UNISON has today been granted permission to appeal the High Court’s decision turning down the union’s second Judicial Review application over the government’s decision to introduce employment tribunal fees.

The full judgment can be found here.

The Court of Appeal has already agreed to hear UNISON’s appeal of the earlier High Court decision over tribunal fees. This hearing was stayed in light of new evidence showing a huge drop in tribunal claims which resulted in the second Judicial Review hearing. UNISON will seek to join these appeals and will seek an expedited hearing.

UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis said: 

“The High Court’s decision is disappointing but we will fight on and do everything possible to ensure that these punitive fees introduced by the government are abolished.

“Today’s ruling is a real missed opportunity to ensure that all workers can afford to bring an employment tribunal claim. Since the introduction of fees last year, thousands of workers have been priced out of justice and we must not let this continue to happen.”

Prior to the introduction of fees on 29 July 2013, the Employment Tribunals received an average of 48,000 new claims per quarter. However the most recent quarterly figures for July to September 2014 show that in that quarter there were only 13,612 new claims – 66% fewer than the number of claims lodged in the same period of 2013 (when fees were payable), according to MoJ figures released on 11 December 2014.

The Government’s decision to introduce Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal fees was challenged by UNISON in the High Court in October 2013 and again in October 2014. The union argued that the introduction of fees would deny access to justice for workers treated unfairly by employers and would therefore be unlawful, and that the introduction of fees has a disproportionate impact on women.

The High Court in the first judicial review appeared to accept the union’s argument, but ruled that because the fees were introduced in July 2013 the full impact could not be judged. In the recent decision, following evidence of a 91% drop in sex discrimination claims, and an overall drop in claims of 80%, the High Court described the extraordinary fall in the number of claims as “striking” and Lord Justice Elias anticipated that some workers would have insufficient funds to bring claims.

Employment Tribunal claims dropped by 72% in the year following the introduction of fees, when comparing August 2012 to July 2013 with August 2013 to July 2014*.