By now most people are already aware of the Supreme Court decision in relation to a case brought by the union UNISON regarding the impact of Employment Tribunal fees on access to justice.
The Supreme Court has ruled that fees of up to £1,200 are inconsistent with access to justice, and as such the Government may have to pay back upwards of £30million to those affected. The argument brought by UNISON on behalf of their members stated that the issue fees and hearing fees were effectively prohibiting those on low wages and with little capital backup to access justice.
Together with solicitors’ fees, the costs for most employees were quite simply prohibitive and at Mewies Solicitors we have had experience where our clients have been unable to take action against their employers due to the Tribunal fees. The indications are that the Ministry of Justice will take immediate steps to stop charging fees in Employment Tribunals and put in place arrangements to refund those who have paid.
This decision obviously has an extremely important effect on both employees and employers. Employees can now take their employer to a Tribunal without the requirement to pay a fee, although they will still need to put in place arrangements to pay their solicitors’ fees.
From an employer point of view, the decision will appear to have a more significant impact. Many employers have ridden roughshod over their employees since the fees were introduced in July 2013 in the knowledge that their employees cannot afford to take their case to a Tribunal. Employers will now have to be extremely careful in terms of the way they treat their employees, certainly in relation to discrimination cases and unfair dismissal cases.
The law remains in place that an employee still requires two years’ continuous service to obtain unfair dismissal rights. However, employees can now take their case to a Tribunal without fear of the prohibitive fees involved. It is therefore important that both employers and employees adapt their approach in terms of dealing with potential claims. For the most part, employers will need to ensure that their procedures and policies are both clear and up-to-date. There may also be an increased use of settlement agreements in order to resolve disputes between employers and employees.
As always, Mewies Solicitors is here to advise both employers and employees regarding their rights and should you need any further advice in this respect please call 01756 799000.