Employment Tribunal fees an unconstitutional denial of access to justice

R (on the application of UNISON) (Appellant) v Lord Chancellor (Respondent) [2017] UKSC 51

Hailed by Mr Prentis, the General Secretary of Unison, as “the biggest victory in a court in British employment history”. The Supreme Court have unanimously decided that the Government’s introduction of fees for Employment Tribunal cases in 2013 was an unconstitutional denial of access to justice.

In 2013 the Government introduced fees that could force an employee hoping to enforce their legal rights to pay fees of up to £1,300. Their reason at the time, was that forcing employees to pay this financial burden would cut the number of malicious and weak cases that were clogging up the system. Since their introduction many practitioners, myself included, have been concerned at such a brutal and disappointing policy.

On the 26th July 2017, the highest court in our land confirmed a basic principle that defines our legal system. Access to justice. The Government’s defence rested on the principle that many claims brought to Tribunal were ill-founded and therefore a deterrent was necessary. The fee introduction saw a drastic drop of over 70% of cases brought to Tribunal. Secondly, the Government argued that a private dispute resolution service that benefited only the claimant and as a result questioned why the tax payer must pick up the tab.

The Supreme Court Justices held that the Government was acting unlawfully and unconstitutionally when it introduced the fees. Access to justice is a basic right which cannot be taken away. The fees were indirectly discriminatory.

In response to the decision, Justice Minister Dominic Raab has already stated that the Government “will take immediate steps to stop charging fees in employment tribunals and put in place arrangements to refund those who have paid them”.

Not only has this decision echoed to the very core of our country’s legal system, it now creates a fascinating playing field for Employees in the future.

We here at DF Legal can help guide you through all your employment concerns. Our offices are in Cheltenham, Stroud, Tewkesbury and Ledbury but we act for clients throughout Gloucestershire.

Jack Henry


If you would like further information on this subject, contact me at jhenry@dflegal.com

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DF Legal LLP is a firm of solicitors with offices in Cheltenham, Ledbury, Stroud and Tewkesbury and has been serving the needs of individuals and businesses since 1980.

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