From today, anyone who has been treated illegally or unfairly at work will no longer have to pay to take their employers to court, the UK Supreme Court has announced.
The ruling came as human rights charity Unison won a court victory against the government today (Wednesday). Unison representatives shared news on social media that all employment tribunal fees will now be scrapped.
Prior to this ruling, anyone in England, Scotland and Wales wanting to pursue a case of unfair dismissal against their employer has had to find as much as £1,200. This has now proved to be too large of an expense for many low-paid employees.
The Supreme Court – the UK’s highest court – unanimously ruled that the government was acting unlawfully and unconstitutionally when it introduced the fees four years ago.
As a direct result of Unison’s legal challenge, the government will also have to refund more than £27m to the thousands of people charged for taking claims to tribunals since July 2013.
“The government is not above the law. But when ministers introduced fees they were disregarding laws many centuries old, and showing little concern for employees seeking justice following illegal treatment at work,” said general secretary of Unison, Dave Prentis.
“The government has been acting unlawfully, and has been proved wrong – not just on simple economics, but on constitutional law and basic fairness too.”
He added that this is a major victory for employees everywhere, and that Unison “ook the case on behalf of anyone who’s ever been wronged at work, or who might be in future”.
He added that employers no longer have the upper hand.
“These unfair fees have let law-breaking bosses off the hook these past four years, and left badly treated staff with no choice but to put up or shut up.
“We’ll never know how many people missed out because they couldn’t afford the expense of fees. But at last this tax on justice has been lifted.”
The Conservative Government introduced the legislation levying fees on unfair dismissal claimants in 2013, but the Supreme Court has found it is unlawful under both domestic and EU law because it “has the effect of preventing access to justice”.
“Since it had that effect as soon as it was made, it was therefore unlawful and must be quashed,” the court concluded.