Employment Tribunal Claims Ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court

27 July 2017

Practice Area: Employment Law


Fees for those bringing employment tribunal claims have been ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court, and the government will now have to repay up to £32m to claimants.

Commenting on the changes Rachel Penny, a partner in Carson McDowell’s employment team, said:

“The Supreme Court handed down a very important judgment today, ruling that the government unlawfully introduced fees for claimants wishing to pursue claims in employment tribunals.

“While this is an issue that does not directly affect Northern Ireland, because our local assembly chose not to introduce a similar regime, the changes will still have relevance to those Northern Ireland based employers who have operations in Great Britain.

“The fees regime, introduced in 2013, required a payment of up to £1,200. It had an immediate and dramatic impact on the number claims brought in Great Britain, with an estimated reduction of 70 per cent.

“Now the Supreme Court has ruled that the fees regime is unlawful, and has quashed it with immediate effect. The government will have to reimburse all fees paid. The court said that the regime prevented access to justice, disproportionately affected women and thus was discriminatory.

“There is widespread acceptance among lawyers in Great Britain that the government simply “got it wrong” and the fees were set at far too high a rate. The intention was to prevent unmeritorious claims and to make “users” of the tribunal system contribute to its costs. Evidence showed that the rates of unmeritorious claims stayed largely static and the Supreme Court has made abundantly clear that access to justice cannot be viewed purely through the lens of market economics.”

If you would like more information, please contact a member of the Employment team here.