The Supreme Court has allowed the appeal by Unison against the legality of the current system of employment tribunal fees. The Supreme Court held that the fees regime, introduced in 2013, is unlawful because the fees are not set at an affordable level and effectively prevent access to justice in employment tribunals.

Prior to the introduction of the fees regime, access to the employment tribunals was free of charge. Since its introduction, the fee payable depended on the type of claim being brought. Fees start at £160 for issuing claims, such as unlawful deduction from wages or breach of contract, with a hearing fee of £230. However, for claims such as unfair dismissal or discrimination, these came with an issue fee of £250 plus a hearing fee of £950. The fee regime resulted in a dramatic decline in the number of tribunal claims. 

What will happen next?

The Supreme Court has quashed the 2013 Fees Order, meaning that claimants in employment tribunal cases cannot now be required to pay fees. 

The Supreme Court ruling does not necessarily prevent an alternative fee structure from being re-introduced in the future but, given the ruling, any fees payable would need to be set at a level everyone can afford. 

The Supreme Court made it clear that all fees paid between 2013 and now will have to be refunded by the Lord Chancellor’s Department. This will be further complicated in cases where respondents have been ordered to pay the fees because the claimant has won. 

What does this mean going forward?

It is likely that there will be a rise in the number of employment tribunal claims and also a potential argument from those who did not bring a claim because they could not afford the fees.

We will keep you updated with any further developments in this matter but in the meantime if you are concerned about a matter or a potential claim please get in touch.


Call 0333 006 2929 or email [email protected] today to discover exactly how we can help you.


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