Legal battle over tribunal fees reaches Supreme Court today, as case brought by Unison is heard by country's top court

Hayley Kirton
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Tribunal numbers have fallen significantly since fees were introduced in 2013 (Source: Getty)

A legal battle over whether the government can impose fees for employment tribunals will be heard in the Supreme Court today.

After fees were introduced in July 2013, those who wish to bring their employer to tribunal have had to stump up costs of as much as £1,200 and case numbers have fallen by 70 per cent since then, according the Unison, which is bringing the case.

The Supreme Court hearing, which is expected to last two days, will mark the latest step in a three-and-a-half year legal battle for the union. Unison's case was first heard in the High Court in October 2013 and then by the Court of Appeal in April 2015. However, its claims were unsuccessful in the lower courts.

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"If an employer breaks the law and treats one of their employees unfairly, they should be challenged," said Unison general secretary Dave Prentis. "It cannot be right that unscrupulous bosses are escaping punishment because people simply don't have the money to pursue a case."

The government launched a consultation to review tribunal fees, with a focus on whether the additional cost had put off people with genuine claims, in January. That consultation closed earlier this month and the Ministry of Justice is currently considering the feedback.

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"The introduction of fees was a terrible decision," Prentis continued. "It has denied many thousands of people the right to seek justice. Bad employers are having a field day, safe in the knowledge that few will be able to afford to challenge them at a tribunal.

"The government originally said making people pay would weed out vexatious claims. All it's done is penalise lower paid employees with genuine grievances. That's why it's so important our legal challenge succeeds."

The Ministry of Justice declined to comment.

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