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Employment Law

Legal guidance - compliance - software

07 MAR 2016

Employment Tribunal fees update - UNISON granted permission to appeal to Supreme Court

Colin Godfrey
Senior Associate, Veale Wasbrough Vizard

The Supreme Court has granted UNISON permission to appeal the Court of Appeal's (CA) decision rejecting UNISON's judicial review of the employment tribunal fee regime.

In July 2013, fees were introduced in both the Employment Tribunal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

One of the UK's largest trade unions, UNISON, which represents full-time and part-time staff that provide public services, applied for a judicial review of the introduction of these fees.

The applications

UNISON made two applications for a judicial review:

  • The first application was dismissed by the High Court. UNISON commenced proceedings challenging the Lord Chancellor's decision to introduce employment tribunal fees before any order was made. A central ground of the challenge was that many claimants would be unable to afford to bring a claim in the tribunals. However, the High Court concluded that there had been little opportunity to see how the scheme worked in practice. It was therefore decided that UNISON's claims were brought prematurely and lacked evidence.
  • The second application was also dismissed by the High Court. UNISON asserted that it now had sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the fee regime infringed the EU law and was indirectly discriminatory towards women.
However, the High Court was not convinced that the 'striking reduction' in the number of cases brought in employment tribunals since the fee regime was introduced demonstrated that employees were unable to afford the fees.

In June 2015, the CA rejected UNISON's appeal against both High Court decisions. However, the Supreme Court has now granted permission for UNISON to appeal the CA's decision in this matter.
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