The Supreme Court has just ruled that the fee regime introduced in 2013, which brought about a 70% reduction in employment tribunal claims, is unlawful. Until Unison’s successful appeal to the Supreme Court, employees had to pay £1200 to bring most employment tribunal claims (some tribunal claims, such as claims for deductions from wages, were cheaper).
To say that the consequences of this decision are a mess is an understatement. As a result of the Supreme Court’s decision employees will no longer have to pay fees to bring claims and those who have paid fees in the past will be refunded. However, it is not clear whether employers will be refunded where they have reimbursed employees for fees where they have lost claims, or where fees were paid as part of a settlement. It is also unclear whether out of time claims which were not brought because of the fee regime will be allowed.
Given the detail of the Supreme Court’s decision, it is unlikely that tribunal fees will disappear forever. It is expected that lower level fees or fees on a sliding scale will be introduced in future.
So, what does this mean for employers?
An immediate increase in tribunal claims overall is likely, particularly low value and tenuous claims and, until we have further guidance, out of time claims are a distinct possibility. The increase in claims is likely to clog the tribunal administration system further and slow down the progress of claims.
Caroline Banwell has considerable experience in defending (and bringing) employment tribunal claims for clients. For advice contact Caroline by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 07964903664.