HR · 26 July 2017

Bosses braced for rise in claims as Supreme Court declares tribunal fees unlawful

The Supreme court in London is the highest court of appeal in Great Britain. The building itself was previously the Middlesex guildhall and is situated just across parliament square opposite the palace of Westminster.
The ruling was brought to the Supreme Court by UNISON

Business owners could soon be hit with a rise in discrimination claims, after a landmark Supreme Court ruling decided employment tribunal fees were unlawfully introduced by government.

Employment tribunal fees were initially imposed by government in July 2013 and meant claimants were charged between £390 and £1,200 to have claims of discriminatory treatment or dismissal legally heard by a panel.

The introduction of fees led to a 79 per cent drop in tribunal claims in the three years that followed. In July 2013, 7,240 claims were brought to tribunal by workers. By December 2016, just 1,486 cases were brought.

The new ruling, agreed unanimously by judges on the grounds that employment tribunal fees discriminated against women and generally deterred claimants, means employees seeking to make claims will now be able to do so free of charge.

Employment experts have predicted that business owners could be set for a significant increase in claims against discriminatory practices. However, staff are only given access to tribunal for claims outside of discrimination after two years of employment.

Commenting on the ruling, Alan Price, employment law and HR director at Peninsula, warned bosses to brace themselves for greater scrutiny.

“Along with transparency developments such as gender pay gap reporting, this could see employers facing an increasing amount of tribunal claims. What this means for the early conciliation process, introduced alongside fees, will remain to be seen but this process will be important to weed out future spurious claims,” Price said in a statement.

“Ensuring employers are determining status correctly, applying correct employment rights to every member of staff and not subjecting individuals to unfair treatment is vital.

“Employers need to get this right to remove the risk of facing a tribunal claim and to avoid their business being scrutinised in public due to judgments now being published on the internet.”

Sarah Jackson, chief executive of the Working Families charity, welcomed the ruling as “fantastic news for workers everywhere”.

“The only people to have benefitted from fees are rogue employers who felt this gave them a green light to discriminate against new and expectant mothers,” she said in a statement.

What do gender pay gap reporting rules mean for small businesses?

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Simon Caldwell is a reporter for Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and communications from the University of Liverpool, and previously worked as a content editor in the ecommerce industry.

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