UNISON, the UK’s largest union, today pledged to “fight on” in the face of today’s High Court ruling rejecting UNISON’s challenge to the Government’s decision to introduce employment tribunal and employment appeal tribunal fees.
The High Court appeared to accept all the union’s arguments about the likely impact of the fees on barring access to justice for workers treated unfairly by employers. However, as the fees were only introduced in July last year, the court felt a decision could not be made now, before the full impact could be judged. The High Court firmly expects the government to keep this issue under review and to revoke or amend the scheme if UNISON’s arguments are borne out.
Even before today’s decision the pressure from UNISON during the hearing brought a significant concession from Government, in that successful claimants will now generally have fees reimbursed from the respondent.
The union wants to take the case further to allow the Court of Appeal to consider its arguments and in particular that the introduction of fees has a disproportionate impact on women.
Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON, said:
“Today’s decision is very disappointing but we will fight on and take our very strong arguments into the Appeal Court.
“We provided clear evidence that since the fees were introduced, the number of employment tribunal cases has collapsed. It is doubly disappointing therefore that it was decided that our case had been taken too early. Apart from thefact that judicial review cases have to be taken within a three-month period, extracting the information we provided to the court required detailed FOI requests, because statistics were not readily available in the public domain. These statistics showed a very large drop in tribunal claims, which the High Court described as “dramatic”.
“The sad fact is that workers are being treated unfairly now. They should not be made to wait in the vain hope that the Government will act on the falling number of cases and scrap the fees altogether.
“We are pleased that pressure from our case did win a significant concession from Government so that workers winning their claims are entitled to have the fees reimbursed by their employers.
“The bottom line is that the Government should not put a price on justice. We strongly believe that these fees are unfair and should be dropped, which is what we will argue in the Court of Appeal.”
From September 2012 to September 2013, there was “a fall in all claims of 56%, of claims in the North West region of 82%, in Wales of 88%, in all Equality Act discrimination claims, including equal pay, of 78%, of sex discrimination claims of 86%, and of unfair dismissal claims of 81%”.
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