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Supreme Court ruling overturns Employment Tribunal Fee regime

Employment law specialists Consilia Legal say employers should not ignore a landmark ruling which has reversed a Government decision to introduce fees for those bringing employment tribunal claims. The Supreme Court described the fees as ‘unlawful and unconstitutional’ when it overruled the Government on Wednesday (July 26), four years after fees were introduced.

The decision followed a high profile campaign led by trade union UNISON, which was supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. UNISON successfully argued the cost of bringing a claim denied workers access to justice.

It has been reported that the Tribunal system stopped accepting fees as of the date of the ruling.
This is good news for individual claimants and for employers it is certainly a time when they should look to their policies and procedures and potentially review their current attitude to risk
The judgement is also likely to mean that Claimants who incurred fees in the last 4 years may be liable to receive a refund from the Government. This could be up to £1200 per Claimant

Marie Walsh, Director of Consilia Legal, employment law specialist, said: “Before fees were introduced in 2013 claims in the employment tribunals were plentiful. The Tribunal was one place that a claimant could self represent and bring smaller claims without cost for example in relation to small wages claims. over the last few years the number ofc claims has dropped significantly by around 70 %. It seemed inequitable to employees to argue that all of these claims were spurious and without merit. Rather some claimants at least would have been put off from making say an unlawful deductions claim for around £550 when the fees associated with that claim made it unattractive. The ruling this week ensures again greater access to justice for the individual but also places the responsibility back on employers to act more reasonably towards employees whereas in recent times some employers were taking a more robust and not necessarily attractive approach to their HR strategy.

Marie added: “We urge employers to review their policies and look again at training for line managers. Human Resources teams need to always arm themselves with up-to-date legal knowledge on matters such as basic contract interpretation (making sure their contract and handbooks are up to date in particular disciplinary and grievance processes) and that they can spot potential claims such as discrimination, whistleblowing, unfair dismissal..”

The key to preventing a raft of employment tribunal claims is in Marie’s opinion clear communication and well trained management.

Marie Walsh is a visiting lecturer in employment law on a number of post graduate courses alongside her legal practice and to ensure her clients are always up to date developed the law firm’s education and training programme which provides clients, as well as HR professionals, with specific in-house training on matters, webinars and live TV webinars alongside a national set of barristers, to deliver a holistic approach to the support required by most businesses.

In the event that employers may feel exposed by the ruling she also advises that insurance packages may be available which do not necessarily always come only from the larger and more well known providers

Most law firms not offer an insured retainer which means that in the event of a claim all fees are covered and businesses are able to appoint and deal with their preferred, qualified, specialist trusted legal advisor rather than accepted a call centre approach to what is often one of the most stressful experiences the business and its managers go through.

If you want to find out more about the ruling and discuss how you may be impacted, wish for a review of your contracts and policies or your general processes and simply to discuss how your business can protect itself from employment claims generally contact Consilia Legal on 0113 3229222.

Consilia Legal represents employers of all sizes, as well as individuals, in a variety of contentious and non-contentious matters.