What now for Employment Tribunal Fees?


Since July 2013 any employee wanting to raise Employment Tribunal Proceedings against their employer has had to pay up to £1200 in Tribunal fees (with very few exceptions). Unison failed to persuade the High Court in England that the fees were unlawful. Unison intends to appeal that decision to the Supreme Court.

The Detail

Unison has lost its High Court bid to overturn employment tribunal fees.

Before Employment Tribunal Fees were introduced, an average of 48,000 new claims per quarter were lodged with the employment tribunals system.

The quarterly figures for July to September 2014 show that during this period there were only 13,612 new claims – 66% fewer than the number of claims lodged in the same period of 2013.

Under the rules, workers are charged an “issue fee” of up to £250 when a claim is lodged, and a “hearing fee” that is payable before the case is heard, which can be up to £950.

Unison claim the fees are “punitive” and have “priced thousands of workers out of justice”.

However, employers and business groups have welcomed them as a way of protecting companies from frivolous claims.


The evidence upon which Unison brought these proceedings was statistical; this proved fatal for the case. Without any concrete examples of specific individuals who allegedly assert they were unable to bring a claim because of cost, the High Court held that Unison’s arguments could not properly be tested. Therefore, Unison’s application for judicial review was dismissed.

However, the High Court has given them permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.

What next?

 Unison have indicated that they will appeal the decision.

Along with the appeal it is likely that employment tribunal fees will become a political “hot potato” as we enter an election year.

To further muddy the waters the Smith Commission has recommended that “all powers over the management and operation” of employment tribunals should now be devolved, which potentially would allow the Scottish Government to remove the fees if it sees fit. This could lead to a two tier system in the UK.

Latest News