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High Court rules that employment tribunal fees are lawful

BY Gerry O'Hare
Employment law
BG Purple

Unison has failed in its bid to challenge employment tribunal fees after the High Court ruled that they are lawful. Fees were introduced in the employment tribunal in July 2013 following the Government’s pledge to shift some of the £74 million annual running costs of the tribunal service from taxpayers to users.

Currently users are required to pay a number of fees for using the system, including for lodging a claim, proceeding to a hearing and challenging a decision. Depending on the complexity of the case the cost of lodging a claim is either £160 or £250, with a further fee of £230 or £950 due if the claim proceeds to a hearing. Some users who have low earnings or qualify for certain benefits are entitled to a fee waiver. 

From the outset Unison has spoken out against fees, arguing that they are disproportionate and punitive. During the judicial review the union argued that the introduction of fees was indirectly discriminatory and that they make it excessively difficult for individuals to exercise their rights under EU law. 

Unison initially sought an interim injunction to prevent the regime from taking effect, but was unsuccessful and fees were introduced on 29th July 2013. Two judicial reviews of the decision were lodged shortly thereafter, one in England by Unison and the other in Scotland by employment law firm Fox and Partners.
The Scottish case was heard first, but a decision reserved until after the Unison case was heard by the High Court. Today Lord Justice Moses and Mr Justice Irwin delivered their decision in the Unison case, dismissing the claim and holding that the fee regime is lawful. 

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