News & Views

Legal challenges fail to derail the introduction of ET fees

BY Katy Marshall
Employment law
BG Purple

Recent weeks have seen a frenzy of activity in the employment law world as the government pushes ahead with its plans to introduce reform.

The big news this week is that two recent court cases have NOT been able to block the introduction of employment tribunal fees. The first case was raised by the trade union Unison in the High Court of England and Wales back in June. The second case was brought by Edinburgh employment law firm Fox & Co and was heard in the Scottish Court of Session on the 9th and 10th of July. 

As previously reported in LAWmail, fees for the introduction of tribunal claims will be introduced from 29th July 2013. Now, I know you will all be able to reel off the fee levels like the names of your nearest and dearest but, just in case, here’s a quick reminder: 

•       Level 1 Claims (unfair dismissal/detriment etc): £160 issue fee and £250 hearing fee

•       Level 2 Claims (wages/annual leave etc.): £230 issue fee and £950 hearing fee 

Arguments in both cases were broadly similar: that the level of fees is disproportionate; that fees will prevent low paid women from raising equal pay claims; and that requiring claimants to pay makes it virtually impossible to exercise rights under European Community law. The Unison case also raised the argument that there has been no proper assessment of the impact of fees on those with protected characteristics, in breach of the government's public sector equality duty. 

In neither case was the court convinced that the decision to introduce fees should be delayed. In the Fox & Co case, the law firm had asked that an interdict be granted to postpone fees until a full hearing on the matter in October. The Judge declined this request, but did rule that, if fees are found to be unlawful, any fees paid between now and October should be refunded by the government. So, the government gets a stay of execution on fees for now, while opponents of fees prepare for round two. We wait with bated breath...

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