Employment tribunal fees unlawful and discriminatory says Supreme Court

Published: 26 Jul 2017

Thousands of women and people in low income jobs have been denied their rights to justice by the existing rules on fees for employment tribunals, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has said.

The fees to take a discrimination case to tribunal means many people having to walk away without redress, with employers let off the hook after making unlawful decisions.

Speaking after Unison won a ruling at the Supreme Court that the current rules are unlawful and discriminatory, David Isaac, Equality and Human Rights Commission Chair, called for the current policy to be scrapped and for the Government to think again. He said:

"The right to justice must be based on the merit of your case not your ability to pay. Thousands may have been denied of this right and priced out of getting justice. The judgment of the Supreme Court is a damning verdict on the current regime. It is a licence to discriminate for employers and must be scrapped. The law only works if people know that it is a fair and just system and the biggest and strongest will not always win."

The Equality and Human Rights Commission provided expert independent legal arguments during the case. Following the introduction of employment tribunal fees in July 2013, discrimination cases on the grounds of sex, disability and race, as well as equal pay claims, all fell by around 50% in 2016 to 2017 compared to the last year before fees.

Pregnancy and maternity discrimination claims have also fallen by 45%. In addition to the barrier of fees, the short time limit of 3 months to bring a case blocks women who are coping with the pressures of new motherhood from accessing justice.

David Isaac said:

“Women face a double penalty with high fees and short time scales to bring maternity discrimination cases. The time limit should be extended to 6 months rather than new mothers having the added pressure of having to rush to make a claim.”

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