Posted on Jul 28th 2017.
On Wednesday 26th July 2017, the UK Supreme Court ruled in favour of eliminating unfair Employment Tribunal fees. The Government will now have to refund over £27m to people who have been unfairly charged over the last 4 years. This was a huge win for Unison, one of the UK’s largest trade unions who represent full-time and part-time staff who provide public services. It is being described as “the biggest victory in a court in British employment history”, so we felt like we should take a look at what happened.
The Employment Tribunal makes decisions in regards to legal disputes around employment law. The Tribunal hears claims from people who think that they have been unfairly and unlawfully treated by their employer or employers. The claims can vary from unfair dismissal, discrimination and unfair deductions from pay.
The Employment Tribunal fees were introduced by Chris Grayling on 29th July 2013 with the aim to cut down the amount of “weak and malicious” claims.
The fees started at around £160 for a Type A claim (wage claims, breach of contract, etc.) and £250 for a Type B claim (unfair dismissal, race and sex discrimination). After that, there was also a hearing fee charge of £230 for Type A claims and £950 for Type B claims. So that meant that an unfair dismissal could cost you up to £1,200, which many people agreed was very unreasonable.
The introduction of Employment Tribunal fees led to a 70% drop in cases, because people either couldn’t or refused to pay these outrageous fees. Having these fees in place prevented people from getting justice from being unfairly treated at work.
By implementing these charges, people who received a low pay or simply couldn’t afford it were denied the chance to present their cases against their employers, making them suffer in silence when some of them would have had very serious claims. As you can see, this was not right and Unison took it upon themselves to challenge the Government on these unfair fees.
Since the Supreme Court ruled the fees unlawful, Chris Grayling (now transport secretary) has been reprimanded for “introducing fees without proper parliamentary scrutiny, without gathering evidence to support the decision and in a way that undermines the access to justice on which the rule of law depends”.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis had this to say: “The Government is not above the law. But ministers introduced fees they were disregarding laws many centuries old, and showing little concern for employees seeking justice following illegal treatment at work”. He further went on to say: “The Government has been acting unlawfully and has been proved wrong – not just on simple economics, but on constitutional law and basic fairness too”.
This goes to show now more than ever that businesses have the correct policies and procedures in place and we can help with that. Our professional HR consultants can help with policies and procedures, management of payroll, dealing with disciplinaries and dismissals and making sure you are following the current health & safety legislation.
We think it will be unlikely that Employment Tribunal fees will be demolished completely, but we do think this will force the Government to rethink them. This might mean lower fees and a contribution from the employer.
We also think we will see a resurgence in cases from between 2013-2017 that were not brought forward due to the high fee costs. This will make it easier for discrimination cases to be put forward, which we anticipate will be a large number.
Our advice going forward would be; if an ex-employee with any kind of claim approaches you, they still need to contact ACAS and go through the correct procedures. If you are approached by ACAS, you need to document it and bring it to us here at Wurkplace where we can help you with advice on what happens next.
We will update you with more information as it comes out.
If you’re concerned about anything, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We can offer any advice you need or various packages to help.
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