Employees will no longer have to pay to start a claim in Tribunal after the Supreme Court unanimously quashed the fees regime introduced by the government in 2013.
Fees for Tribunals have deterred a great many claims in Tribunal, not only for unpaid wages but for discrimination and unfair dismissal as well. Tribunal applications dropped 70% after fees were introduced, and most lawyers agreed that an unpaid wages claim for say £150 would be futile with the Tribunal fee being more than the amount in question.
Some employers have developed a more robust approach to dismissal following the introduction of fees, acting more aggressively and not settling claims unless the employee actually paid to start a Tribunal claim. That approach will need to be reconsidered now that an employee can bring a Tribunal claim without any fee.
The Supreme Court considered not only the European Convention on Human Rights, but began its reasoning based on the English common law and the right of citizens to have unfettered access to justice. It concluded that in the absence of such access, every citizen was at risk, and the role of the courts, and eventually Parliament itself would be undermined. Quoting dictum from Blackstone and Magna Carta, the Supreme Court underlined the importance to democracy itself of having access to justice, and ruled that the fees regime in Tribunal hindered that access.
As of TODAY fees will no longer be charged, and fees already paid will be reimbursed.
The Barristers Chambers that won the claim on behalf of UNISON have summarised the judgement and it’s an excellent read.