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23 November, London 

This year's conference took place at TUC Congress House on Wednesday 23 November.  Please click through for highlights from the day.

Unison victory

UNISON's tribunal fee verdict is a victory for everyone in work

Thu 27 Jul 2017

MiP congratulates UNISON on its landmark win in the supreme court

MiP has congratulated UNISON on its landmark court victory against the government, which means that employment tribunal fees will now be scrapped.

MiP chief executive Jon Restell said: ‘This is a stunning win for access to justice and working people. If you still need proof trade unions are important in this country this is it. Without UNISON’s tenacious campaign in the courts, the regressive policy on tribunals fees would have remained with us.’
 
The Supreme Court – the UK’s highest court – has unanimously ruled that the government was acting unlawfully and unconstitutionally when it introduced the fees four years ago.
 
From yesterday, anyone who has been treated illegally or unfairly at work will no longer have to pay to take their employers to court – as a direct result of UNISON’s legal challenge.
 
The government will also have to refund more than £27m to the thousands of people charged for taking claims to tribunals. This is since July 2013, when fees were introduced by Chris Grayling, the then Lord Chancellor.
 
Anyone in England, Scotland and Wales wanting to pursue a case against their employer has had to find as much as £1,200.

Notes:
- The judgement UNISON v The Lord Chancellor [2017] UKSC 2015/0233 can be found here
- The seven Supreme Court judges ridiculed the government’s misunderstanding of “elementary economics, and plain common sense”, when it claimed higher fees would mean increased demand.
- The judges also said fees were set so high, it “has had a deterrent effect upon discrimination claims, among others”, and also put off more genuine cases, than the so-called vexatious claims the government claimed fees were meant to deter.
- The Supreme Court stressed that the administration of justice is not merely a public service, where courts and tribunals are only of value to the “users” who appear before them and who obtain a remedy. They said access to justice is of value to society as a whole, especially where cases establish legal rules and principles of general importance.
- The Court said UNISON’s evidence showed the fall in claims when fees came in was “so sharp, so substantial and so sustained” that they could not reasonably be afforded by those on low to middle incomes. It also held that fees particularly deterred the kind of ‘low-value’ claims generally brought by the most vulnerable workers.
- Employment tribunal fees were introduced on 29 July 2013.
- Fees started at around £160 for a type A claim (for example wage claims, breach of contract), and £250 for a type B claim (unfair dismissal, race and sex discrimination). There was also a further hearing fee of £230 for Type A and £950 for Type B claims. Appeals at the employment appeal tribunal attracted an additional £400 lodging and £1,200 hearing fee.
- A timeline of the various stages in UNISON’s legal challenge, which began in October 2013 is here.
- UNISON has a number of case studies who would have been unable to seek justice without the support of their union.
- The government’s employment tribunal fees review published in January showed that £27m was collected in fees from 2012-16.

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