10/02/2014 - High Court backs Employment Tribunal Fees

Top judges  have backed the ConDem coalition's decision to impose "punitive" fees on wronged workers who seek justice in court.

General union Unison, which brought the case, vowed to press on after it failed to persuade two judges at the High Court in London to quash what it argued was an "unlawful" Con-Dem order imposing a price on workplace justice for the first time.

Announcing their decision to dismiss Unison's judicial review application, Lord Justice Moses and Mr Justice Irwin said the "fundamental flaw in these proceedings is that they are premature and that the evidence at this stage lacks that robustness necessary to overturn the regime."

Under changes introduced last July, workers in Britain are charged to bring an employment claim, again if the claim is heard and a third time if they want to appeal.

Fees start at around £160 to issue a claim, rising to £250 a claim depending on the type of claim; which a further hearing fee starting at £230 to £950. Where claims are issued by a group, issue fees range from £320 and £460 (hearing fee). For a simpler “Type A” claim with 2-10 claimants to £1500 (issue fee) and £5700 (hearing fee) for a more complex “Type B claim” with over 200 claimants.

Unison said yesterday it intended to take its case to the Court of Appeal.

Union general secretary Dave Prentis said: "We provided clear evidence that since the fees were introduced, the number of employment tribunal cases has collapsed.

"It is doubly disappointing therefore that it was decided that our case had been taken too early.

"The sad fact is that workers are being treated unfairly now."

According to Unison from September 2012 to September 2013, there was "a fall in all claims of 56 per cent, while sex discrimination claims fell 86 per cent and unfair dismissal claims dropped by 81 per cent."

Institute of Employment Rights director Carolyn Jones described the court's decision as "another nail in the coffin of access to justice."

She said: "Employers are safe in the knowledge that they can act out without restraint. They have been given a rubber stamp to act badly. Unison is doing its best to defend its members' rights."

Unison did gain a small victory however. Mr Prentis explained: "We are pleased that pressure from our case did win a significant concession from government so that workers winning their claims are entitled to have the fees reimbursed by their employers."

Pat Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity, commented:
“Like Unison we welcome the small victory in this case. We also note that the Judges have not closed the door on a future review where more evidence will be available. Charging workers to bring claims is wrong and will encourage poor employment practices.”