Employers should not ignore a landmark ruling which has reversed a Government decision to introduce fees for those bringing employment tribunal claims warns employment law lecturer and law firm director Marie Walsh.
Walsh, who is a visiting lecturer in employment law on a number of post graduate courses alongside her legal practice at Leeds and Harrogate law firm Consilia Legal, said it was a time for employers to look to their policies and procedures and potentially review their current attitude to risk.
The Supreme Court described the fees as ‘unlawful and unconstitutional’ when it overruled the Government this week, four years after fees were introduced.
The decision followed a high profile campaign led by trade union UNISON, which was supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. UNISON successfully argued the cost of bringing a claim denied workers access to justice.
It has been reported that the Tribunal system stopped accepting fees as of the date of the ruling.
The judgement is likely to mean that Claimants who incurred fees in the last 4 years may be liable to receive a refund from the Government. This could be up to £1200 per Claimant.
Before fees were introduced in 2013 claims in the employment tribunals were plentiful. The Tribunal was one place that a claimant could self represent and bring smaller claims without cost for example in relation to small wages claims. Last year, three years into the fee regime, the number of claims had dropped significantly by around 70 per cent.
The ruling this week ensures again greater access to justice for the individual but also places the responsibility back on employers to act more reasonably towards employees.
We urge employers to review their policies and look again at training for line managers.
She advised employers who felt exposed by the ruling to consider insurance packages, which cover the cost of fees and professional advice in the event of a claim.