Employment tribunal fees are now unlawful – what does this mean for businesses?

Yesterday (26/07/2017) the Supreme Court ruled that fees for bringing employment tribunals are unlawful.

Employees had to pay from £390 to £1,200 to get a hearing after the fees were introduced in 2013 in order to cut the number of weak cases. As a result, there was a 79% decrease in cases being brought.

The government will now have to reimburse about £32m of fees dating back to 2013, with the charging of fees ceasing immediately.

Trade union Unison brought the case against the government, saying that the fees were preventing access to justice. Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “The government has been acting unlawfully, and has been proved wrong – not just on simple economics, but on constitutional law and basic fairness too.

“These unfair fees have let law-breaking bosses off the hook these past four years, and left badly treated staff with no choice but to put up or shut up.

“We’ll never know how many people missed out because they couldn’t afford the expense of fees.”

So what effect will this have on businesses, and what can they do about it?

Employees or ex-employees are now far more likely to bring a case before an employment tribunal. Seamus Nevin, head of employment and Skills Policy at the Institute of Directors, said the judgement “opens the door to a spike in malicious or vexatious claims”.

Mike Spicer, director of Research at the British Chambers of Commerce, said the ruling would leave “employers concerned about a return to the past, when despite winning the majority of cases, companies would often settle to avoid a costly and protracted process even when their case was strong”.

Due to the increased chance of claims being made, businesses should look to tighten up the processes and procedures that will defend them.

Having the correct procedures in place and maintaining good relations with employees will also reduce the chance of a claim happening in the first place.

Employers should review their policies regarding grievances, disciplinary procedures, discrimination and be sure they’re acting fairly if dismissing staff.

For a consultation to see if your policies will protect you, please feel free to call Deminos on 020 7870 1090 or email hrdeminos@deminos.co.uk.

Author David Ralph

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