Major trade union, UNISON, has today (26 July 2017) secured a landmark Supreme Court victory against the UK government on the issue of employment tribunal fees. 

Today’s ruling marks the end of a four-year legal battle by UNISON to overturn the Tory and Lib Dem government's decision to impose fees on workers who wished to challenge their employer at an employment tribunal in England, Wales and Scotland.

"We congratulate our colleagues at UNISON on their fantastic victory. By calling time on the always immoral and now proved to be illegal employment tribunal fees, UNISON has struck a blow for workers everywhere."

Stephen Cavalier
employment rights expert and chief executive at Thompsons Solicitors

The fees – which in some instances ranged as high as £1,200 – were widely criticised for limiting access to justice for workers and shifting the balance of power ever-more in favour of employers. 

The Supreme Court has now unanimously ruled that in introducing employment tribunal fees in 2013, the government had been acting unconstitutionally and unlawfully in breach of domestic and European Union law. The fees have been struck down. 

“We congratulate our colleagues at UNISON on their fantastic victory. By calling time on the always immoral and now proved to be illegal employment tribunal fees, UNISON has struck a blow for workers everywhere,” said Stephen Cavalier, employment rights expert and chief executive at campaigning law firm Thompsons Solicitors. 

“By introducing employment tribunal fees, the then Coalition government sought to put a tax on justice for workers.  Many workers were priced out of enforcing their legal rights. The present government should not seek to reintroduce employment tribunal fees and we call for cross-party support to oppose any move to do so – including from the Liberal Democrats who shared responsibility for introducing the fees, and the DUP as workers in Northern Ireland have never been subject to employment tribunal fees.”  

From the 26 July 2017, as a direct result of UNISON’s challenge, workers who feel their employment rights have been breached by their employer will not have to pay to take their employer to a tribunal. The thousands of workers who sought remedies at a tribunal in the last four years should now be line for a refund by the government reported to total £27million