Fees and floodgates: Employment Tribunal fees are unlawful

Following a Judgment by the Supreme Court, the government will have to repay Employment Tribunal fees paid by past Claimants since they began to be charged in 2013.  The fees were between about £160 to £1,200.  All of this money will now have to be refunded, costing the Government around £32 million.  The government has not yet announced details about whether the money will be refunded automatically or whether it will need to be claimed, but it will have to be refunded eventually.

The fee barrier to a future claim has now been removed.  The Supreme Court ruled that it was contrary to justice to put the fee barrier in the way of enforcing the employment rights given to everyone equally.  It stopped many who had a good claim; in other words where the employer had breached the law, but the claimant could not afford to pay the fee without hardship so did not proceed.

The most interesting question is this: what about those who did not bring a claim in the past, when they would otherwise have done so but for the fee?  Will Tribunals be willing to extend the time limits for bringing a claim – usually three months between the reason for the claim and the claim itself?  If so, then ever so many employees and ex-employees who since 2013 did not to bring a claim because of the fees, could apply to bring their claim now.  Someone will try it and, if they are successful in getting the Tribunal to extend the time limits and allow their ‘old’ claim, the floodgates may open.