Poor employment lawyers, they’ve had a hell of a time since the introduction of tribunal fees in 2013 led to a 70% drop in claims. But it appears the gravy train is heading back on track following the Supreme Court’s ruling today that the fee system is unlawful and will be quashed. To read more about the decision and the implications of it (and why every employment lawyer in the land will have a broad smile today) please read the full article.
Poor employment lawyers, they’ve had a hell of a time since the introduction of tribunal fees in 2013 led to a 70% drop in claims. But it appears the gravy train is heading back on track following the Supreme Court’s ruling today that the fee system is unlawful and will be quashed.
The long running legal battle between Unison and the government has been ruled in Unison’s favour, the law Lords concluded that the fees (up to £250 to list a claim, another £950 to take the case to a hearing) acted as a barrier to justice and that they are unlawful. In coming to the decision the Supreme Court considered the much lower fees payable to bring a claim in the small claims court.
They ruled that anyone who has paid the fee between 2013 and now will be entitled to get their money back, we don’t know yet whether employers who lost cases in the tribunal system during the same period (and therefore had to pay the Claimant’s fees) will similarly be entitled to a refund, but if the fees were illegal then our guess is they will.
So what now? Not a lot for the time being, it will take time to establish what should replace the existing fee system and (lower fees possibly) and when, and there is also the question of what to do with people who would have brought a claim but decided not to because of the fees. Will they be given an additional period of time to submit a late claim (i.e. outside of the normal 3 months) and if the case was years ago will it really be possible to have a fair hearing now?
Lots of unanswered questions, time will tell. What we do know is that in the old days pre-fees, an employee could submit a claim without any cost to themselves. Employers were automatically committed to the time and cost of constructing a defence – thousands of pounds sometimes and hundreds of hours. For every happy employment lawyer today there will be many employers shaking their heads and wondering why the Law Lords are taking us back towards that place.
We’ve said in previous articles that fuelling lawyer’s lifestyles is not the way to conduct an employment defence – a good quality retained HR outsource company with practical experience of legal processes (and an understanding of how workplaces work) is always a better and cheaper option than hourly charging lawyers (whose firm’s income depends on the number of hours they’re able to charge for which isn’t much of an incentive to find speedy resolutions!)
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