Unison allowed to challenge employment tribunal fees

The union organisation Unison has been given permission to pursue a judicial review against the Government. This follows the introduction of fees for workers looking to take their claim to an employment tribunal.

The permission, which was granted on the same day as the introduction of employment tribunal fees comes into force, states that a judicial review will take place in October.

A judicial review is a procedure under which the courts in England and Wales can supervise the exercise of public power on the application of an individual. If anyone feels that a government authority has exercised a power which is unlawful or has violated his or her rights, they may apply to the Administrative Court for a judicial review of the decision, usually with a view to quashing or setting aside the decision.

The main concern of Unison is that the introduction of employment tribunal fees will deny justice to workers who have been unfairly dismissed. The fees could be viewed as prohibitive and put off potential claimants wanting to bring a claim for compensation.

Under the rules which came into force today, it will cost £160 or £250 to lodge a claim, and a further charge of either £230 or £950 if the case goes through to an employment tribunal. These fees increase again with the Employment Appeal Tribunal, with £400 to lodge an appeal and £1,200 for a full appeal hearing.

According to an article on the BBC website today, Dave Prentis, Unison General Secretary, said “The introduction of punitive fees for taking a claim to an employment tribunal would give the green light to unscrupulous employers to ride roughshod over already basic workers rights. We believe that these fees are unfair and should be dropped.”

HM Courts and Tribunals Service said it would refund claimants if the judicial review is successful and the fees are dropped, which would be an embarrassment for the Government.

Part of the reason for the introduction of claimant fees is the number of tribunal claims increasing by 81% from 2001 to 2011, with the administrative cost of these procedures being borne by the taxpayer.

The Federation of Small Businesses is in favour of the introduction of employment tribunal fees, saying “The FSB hoped the introduction of fees will curb the number of speculative claims and help reduce the perceived risk of taking on staff.”