Increase in claims after employment tribunal fees ruled unlawful

Claire Davies, Director at Cartmell Shepherd, reports that there has been a sharp rise in the number of employment tribunal cases since the Supreme Court ruled in July that the fees charged to bring claims were unlawful.

Figures released by the Courts and Tribunal Service show that claims rose by 64% between July and September. The National User Group of Employment Tribunals say the number of claims has doubled in some areas.

Meanwhile, a survey by the CBI found that 90% of businesses think the removal of fees will lead to a rise in vexatious claims that have no merit.

The fees were introduced in 2013, with employees having to pay up to £1,200 to bring a claim. Following a challenge by the union Unison, the Supreme Court ruled that the fees were discriminatory, unlawful and unconstitutional.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) accepted the ruling and has started refunding fees paid by claimants over the last four years. However, it noted that the court had not challenged the right to charge fees, only the amount that was being charged.

In a statement on the ruling, the MoJ said: “The Supreme Court judgment noted that ‘fees paid by litigants can, in principle, reasonably be considered to be a justifiable way of making resources available for the justice system and so securing access to justice’. The court ruled, however, that we hadn’t set the fee at the right level to deliver that outcome.”

The Lord Chancellor, David Lidington, said recently that the government would still like to charge a fee but had to be careful to ensure that tribunals remained accessible and affordable.

This suggests that any new fee structure would have to be low enough to ensure employees were not discouraged from bringing genuine claims.

Firms may wish to check that their employment policies are up to date to reduce the risk of facing costly and time-consuming claims from employees.

Please contact Claire on 01228 516666 if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.

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Client 28th May 2015