Threat of an increase in employment tribunal claims as Unison's judicial review of employment tribunal fees goes back to the High Court - DAC Beachcroft

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Threat of an increase in employment tribunal claims as Unison's judicial review of employment tribunal fees goes back to the High Court

Published On: 16 October 2014

On 21-22 October 2014, Unison will challenge the legitimacy of the employment tribunal fees regime at judicial review for a second time. The High Court has the power to quash the law, order a review of the law as well as making a declaration.

Unison's first application for judicial review was rejected by the High Court back in February 2014. However, the High Court firmly left the door open for a further application once the long term impact of employment tribunal fees was known. With Ministry of Justice statistics showing a steady reduction in claims of around 70-80% from the pre-fee levels, Unison successfully appealed in September 2014 and won the right for the judicial review to be heard afresh in the High Court next week.

Unison's main arguments are that employment tribunal fees:

  1. Deny access to justice for workers with legitimate claims against their employers; and

  2. Have a discriminatory effect on protected groups such as women, ethnic minorities and disabled people.

What does the judicial review mean for my organisation?

If the High Court decides tribunal fees are unlawful, or if the Government is forced to review and reduce the amount of the fees (which may be a more likely eventual outcome), it is likely that there will be a rise in the number of employment tribunal claims. There is also potential for an initial surge of claims from disgruntled employees who currently feel they cannot afford to bring a claim.

Even if the judicial review does not succeed, employment tribunal fees are likely to be in the spotlight during the run up to the General Election in May 2015. Labour Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna has made the following statement, which hints at reform wider than just employment tribunal fees if Labour is elected into government:

“The current employment tribunal system is unfair, unsustainable and has resulted in prohibitive costs kicking people out of the justice they are entitled to. Affordability should not be a barrier to workplace justice…. if we are elected the next Labour Government will abolish the current system, reform the employment tribunals and put in place a new system which ensures all workers have proper access to justice.”

We will keep you updated as soon as we know the outcome of Unison's challenge.

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