U.K. Ordered to Scrap Fees for Cases Against Bad Employers

  • Supreme Court says fees blocked access to justice at tribunals
  • Labor union claims victory against erosion of workers’ rights

Prime Minister Theresa May’s government was ordered by the U.K. Supreme Court to scrap fees levied on workers taking their bosses to employment tribunals.

The charges, of as much as 1,200 pounds ($1,560), “prevented access to justice,” the court in London ruled on Wednesday after a case was brought by the Unison labor union in response to their introduction by David Cameron’s Conservative-led government in 2013. More then 27 million pounds will now have to be refunded to claimants, Unison said.

“The fees order is unlawful under both domestic and EU law because it has the effect of preventing access to justice,” the court said in a summary of the judgment. “Since it had that effect as soon as it was made, it was therefore unlawful and must be quashed.”

The charges led to a fall in the number of cases brought by workers making claims over wrongful dismissal, discrimination and unequal pay. Cameron also increased the time people needed to be in a job before making claims, saying easy access to tribunals was a deterrent to employers hiring extra staff.

“When ministers introduced fees they were disregarding laws many centuries old, and showing little concern for employees seeking justice following illegal treatment at work,” Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis said in a statement. “We’ll never know how many people missed out because they couldn’t afford the expense of fees. But at last this tax on justice has been lifted.”

Justice Minister Dominic Raab said the government recognized it had not “struck the right balance” over fees and will be considering the details of the judgment.

“We will take immediate steps to stop charging fees in employment tribunals and put in place arrangements to refund those who have paid,” he told Sky News.

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