The Supreme Court abolished fees for bringing claims before the Employment Tribunal in a landmark judgement issued on 26 July 2017. The judgement is publically available on the Supreme Court website and is easy to follow notwithstanding that it deals with complex legal issues including EU law.
The case, brought by UNISON, resets the clock back to 28 July 2013 which was the day before the fees were introduced. The Ministry of Justice have indicated that they will refund any claimant who was required to pay fees during the four years that they were in force.
We have summarised the key numbers referred to in the Judgement:
- 29 July 2013 – The date the fees were introduced.
- 26 July 2017 – The date the fees were abolished.
- £390 – The issue and hearing fee for bringing a Type A claim.
- £1200 – The issue and hearing fee for bring a Type B claim.
- 37% - The proportion of Type A claims brought by women.
- 57% - The proportion of Type B claims brought by women.
- 34% - Successful race discrimination claims with awards of less than £3000 (MoJ figures 2012/13 pre fees)
- 52% - Successful race discrimination claims with awards of less than £5000 (MoJ figures 2012/13 pre fees)
- £900 – Median award for successful claims for unlawful deductions from wages in 2013 (DBIS June 2014 figures)
- 33% - The percentage of the Tribunal running costs the Ministry of Justice estimated would be paid by the fees.
- 13% - The actual percentage of Tribunal running costs recovered by the fees.
- 24% - The percentage of claimants it was estimated would get a total refund of fees.
- 54% - The percentage of claimants it was estimated would get a partial refund of fees.
- 29% - The actual percentage of claimants who received a partial or total refund of fees.
- 53% - The percentage of claimants who received all or part of the award when successful without bring enforcement action (2013 DBIS figures).
- 49% - The percentage of claimants who took enforcement action and were paid in full.
- 16% - The percentage of claimants who took enforcement action and were paid in part.
- 35% - The percentage of claimants who took enforcement action and received no payment.
- 31 out of 86310 claims between 1 July 2015 and 30 June 2016 – The number of times the Lord Chancellor used the “exceptional circumstances” fee exemption powers.
- 66-70% - The percentage reduction in claims following the introduction of fees.
The court ruled that taking into account the nature and value of Employment Tribunal cases, the level of the fees imposed, the failure of the fees to achieve the aims for which they were imposed and the resultant drop in claims that the fees themselves had the effect of preventing access to justice.
Stephen Britton – Partner specialising in employment law at Sills and Betteridge commented:
“The Supreme Court judgement is very significant and may see a return to a greater number of claims to the Employment Tribunal. The judgement makes for very interesting reading for any employee thinking of taking a claim and for employers and HR professionals acting as respondents. The judgement reveals that despite the decrease in the volume of claims the percentage of successful claims actually decreased. Time will tell whether the repeal of the fees will have any longer term effect on reducing the number of claims or whether they will return to pre-July 2013 levels.