Businesses urged to review HR processes after Supreme Court Ruling

South West law firm Mogers Drewett is advising businesses in the region to urgently review their Human Resources processes in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling that charging fees for industrial tribunals is unlawful and discriminatory.

Fees for industrial tribunals were introduced in July 2013 and meant that any employee who had a claim against their employer, for example in the case of wage claims, breach of contract, unfair dismissal, race and sex discrimination, would have to pay a fee to bring their claim to tribunal. If a claim was submitted without the accompanying fee or application for fee remission it was rejected.

The introduction of fees coincided with a 70% reduction in the number of claims being taken to tribunal as many low paid workers were discouraged, while better paid employees will also have been discouraged if the fees were disproportionate because of a low value claim.

As Emily Eccles of Mogers Drewett explains, “This judgement endorsing the fundamental importance of access to justice will be better news for employees than it will employers. While it is unknown yet whether fees will be removed altogether, or simply reduced, it will undoubtedly result in an increase in the number of claims brought to tribunal.

“As a matter of urgency employers should ensure that any issues in the workplace are dealt with correctly to reduce the risk of a claim being brought against them. Steps should be taken, before issues arise, to review the processes they have in place to ensure they are suitable, and consider whether they would benefit from external HR support to perfect their processes and practices, and better understand their responsibilities to their employees.

“There is also the issue of people who were historically discouraged or prevented from bringing a claim because of the fees. It remains to be seen whether tribunals will entertain the notion that it was not reasonably practicable to bring a claim when the claimant was significantly impeded or denied access to justice by unlawful fees. If this is the case, it is quite feasible that we see the resurrection of many claims in light of the ruling.”

The judgement of the Supreme Court that the Employment Tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunals Fees Order 2013 is unlawful and will be quashed was made on the morning of 26th July and follows a four-year appeal by UNISON against the legality of the current system of employment tribunal fees.

In its judgement, the Supreme Court made it clear that all fees paid since 2013 will have to be refunded by the Lord Chancellor’s department. Unison estimates that this figure will be more than £27m.

For more information on Mogers Drewett please see www.md-solicitors.co.uk

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