Access to Justice Victory: Supreme Court abolishes employment tribunal fees
The Supreme Court has ruled that the government’s decision to introduce employment tribunal fees was unlawful. This is a huge victory for access to justice for Disabled people in particular.
On the 26th of July the Supreme Court ruled that the government’s decision to introduce employment tribunal fees was unlawful.
From now on people who believe they have been treated unfairly by existing or prospective employers will not have to pay to challenge this at the employment tribunal. Moreover, the government will have to pay back all fees people paid since June 2013. The government will have to publish details of how this will be done.
This is a huge victory for access to justice for all and for Disabled people in particular. Inclusion London campaigned hard against the introduction of tribunal fees. We have been saying from the start that fees would prevent many Disabled people from challenging disability discrimination at work.
The government introduced fees for bringing claims in employment tribunals by the Employment Tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal Fees Order 2013, which came into force on 29 July 2013. The introduction of fees has proven a major barrier to securing remedy in relation to employment discrimination. Since their introduction in July 2013, disability discrimination claims have fallen by 54%.
The Supreme Court’s decision could potentially have a wider impact which goes beyond employment tribunal fees. The court reaffirmed how important and fundamental access to justice is. It clearly stated that people should have meaningful access to courts:
“Courts exist in order to ensure that the laws made by Parliament, and the common law created by the courts themselves, are applied and enforced. In order for the courts to perform that role, people must in principle have unimpeded access to them. Without such access, laws are liable to become a dead letter.”
We will consider fully the implications of this decision for Disabled people and how we can use it to promote greater access to justice in discrimination or welfare cases.
Photo by Shark Attacks on Flickr