Supreme Court Finds Employment Tribunal Fees Unlawful

The Government introduced fees in the Employment Tribunals in 2013, which led to a significant reduction in claims (between 66-70%). Shortly after fees were introduced, UNISON issued a claim for judicial review arguing that the fees prevented access to justice and were indirectly discriminatory against women.

Today the Supreme Court has found that the Government was acting unlawfully and unconstitutionally when it introduced the fees. The Government promised to reimburse all tribunal fees if it was found to have acted unlawfully. The Government is therefore facing a bill of approximately £32million to repay fees.

The Supreme Court found that the fees in discrimination cases were indirectly discriminatory against women as a higher proportion of women would bring such claims.

What now?

a. The Government will need to stop charging fees in the Employment Tribunal and amend the application process.

b. The Government may look at an alternative fee regime and set fees at a lower level, perhaps in line with fees in the County Court.

c. Will an Employment Tribunal grant an extension of time to people who were deterred from bringing claims by the fee regime?


This is a significant decision which is almost certain to lead to a rise in Employment Tribunal claims. It will also cause a significant strain on the Ministry of Justice as it puts in place arrangements to refund fees.

We will be covering the implications for employers at our upcoming employment law update seminars which we will be holding across 4 different venues in Cumbria and north Lancashire. Click here for further details.

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