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Union Gets Supreme Court Go Ahead For Action Over Employment Tribunal Fees

Expert Lawyers Say Government And Unison Unlikely To Back Down

26.02.2016

Kate Rawlings, Press Officer | 0114 274 4238

A union has been given the green light to take legal action against the Government’s decision to make workers pay employment tribunal fees, to the highest court in the UK.

Experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell say the long running battle between Unison and the Government is unlikely to end any time soon, after Supreme Court justices gave the go-ahead to the UK’s largest trade union to challenge a Court of Appeal ruling, from August last year, over the introduction of employment tribunal fees.

Unison claimed the fees were "unfair and punitive", and argued that the majority of people would  not be unable to afford to bring claims against employers.

The changes at the heart of the matter, introduced under The Employment Tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal Fees Order 2013, meant that for the first time workers were charged a fee to bring a claim, a fee if the claim is heard and a further charge to appeal decisions.

Today the Supreme Court announced Unison had been granted permission to appeal in its case against the Lord Chancellor.

The trade union’s judicial review action was heard by appeal judges following the loss of their case at the High Court in December 2014.

During the High Court proceedings Unison claimed the new fees regime were in breach of EU legal principle and rendered employment rights "illusory".

It also made allegations that indirectly the new law discriminated against women, ethnic minorities and the disabled without any justification.

The accusations were unanimously rejected by Mr Justice Foskett and Lord Justice Elias who said the fees scheme was "justified and proportionate".

The Government fought the action claiming the aim of rolling out a fees scheme was to "transfer some of the approximate £74m cost of running the employment tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal from the taxpayer to those who use the system''.

Unison suffered a further defeat at The Court of Appeal when they challenged the High Court decision.

The Supreme Court said the issue in the case was whether the Court of Appeal "erred in its approach to the EU principle of effectiveness", in its "approach to indirect discrimination and in concluding that the fees order was not indirectly discriminatory".

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