Court of Appeal rules Employment Tribunal fees are here to stay… but are they?

Previously free, in July 2013 Employment Tribunal fees were introduced for those wishing to issue a claim. Claims are divided into:

A Unlawful deductions, Statutory Redundancy Payments and breach of contract Issue fee of £160  Hearing fee of £230
B Unfair dismissal, discrimination, and
Issue fee of £250  Hearing fee of £950

Following the introduction of fees there were 79% fewer claims accepted by the Tribunal comparing the period from October-December 2012 to October-December 2013.

Fearing (amongst other things) that asking someone who has just lost their job to pay £1,200 to seek redress presents real concerns over access to justice, the trade union Unison has been fighting fees.

Last week the Court of Appeal decided in R (Unison) v The Lord Chancellor [2015] EWCA Civ 935 that Unison’s appeal failed, mainly because of the following: (a) a lack of evidence as to the impact of fees on individual claimants; (b) it being objectively justifiable to have a two-tier fee system of ‘A’ and ‘B’ Type claims; and (c) although more women than men bring discrimination claims attracting the higher fee this is not discriminatory and reflects the greater Tribunal resources needed to deal with such cases.

However, this is not the end of the story. Unison has applied to appeal to the Supreme Court. Further, a separate enquiry is being held by the Justice Committee into the effects of court and Tribunal fees. Although the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, in his judgment Lord Justice Underhill found the decline in claims to be “startling”. He said "... if there are good grounds for concluding that part of it is accounted for by claimants being realistically unable to afford to bring proceedings the level of fees and/or the remission criteria will need to be revisited."

Although 9 out of 10 people know that statistics can be used to prove anything, the fall in numbers is dramatic and it is difficult to see how the current fee regime will survive the Supreme Court, the Justice Committee and (failing that in the long term) the next Labour Government.

For an initial free of charge consultation, please contact one of our Employment Law experts on 0113 201 4900 or

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