Breaking news-Supreme Court rules tribunal fees are unlawful

The Supreme Court has today in a landmark decision unanimously ruled that the Government’s employment tribunal fees are unlawful and preventing access to justice.

The appeal to the Supreme Court was made by Unison, the UK’s largest trade union after they  argued that the tribunal fees discriminated against workers. The fees, which were introduced in July 2013 included £250 to issue a claim for unfair dismissal, and a further £950 when the case is set down for hearing.

The rationale of the Supreme Court in summary, was as follows:-

  • The fees were set so high, that it had a deterrent effect in bringing a claim, including genuine cases, that might otherwise have been brought. This was especially the case with those on low to middle incomes. There was also indirect discrimination against women who were claiming pregnancy and maternity discrimination (who could least afford to bring a claim).


  • The Supreme Court noted a contrast between the level of fees in the tribunal, and the small claims court (where it is very much cheaper to bring a claim for a small sum of money).


  • Employment tribunals are important for society as a whole, not just the individuals involved.  If the introduction of fees prevented access to justice, then it is unlawful. The Supreme Court said the payment of fees DOES effectively prevent access to justice and imposed unjustified limitations on the ability to enforce EU rights (i.e. those claims based on EU law), and was thus unlawful under EU law.

What will happen next?

The government from today has decided to scrap the fees regime entirely. It will no longer cost you anything to lodge your claim,

The Supreme Court made it clear that all fees paid between 2013 (around £27m) will now have to be refunded by the Lord Chancellor’s Department (and the Lord Chancellor has agreed to do so).  This is going to be an administrative nightmare.

Philip Landau, Landau Law


We are a leading firm of employment law solicitors, acting for employees and senior executives in the City and throughout the UK. For more information on bonuses and a free consultation, please get in contact on 020 7100 5256 and ask to speak to Philip Landau or any member of the employment team, or email us.