In July the Supreme Court ruled the government’s decision to introduce a system of fees for bringing employment tribunal claims to be unlawful.

In a case brought by Unison, the Supreme Court decided that the rule of law requires people to have access to the courts thereby deeming the introduction of fees to be unlawful and unconstitutional.

The impact of this ruling has already prompted an increase in the number of enquiries received by the Employment Law departments of solicitors from individuals who had previously been reluctant to make a claim due to the cost of the employment tribunal fees.

David Lewis, head of employment law at Howells Solicitors, which has a branch in Newport, welcomes the ruling but is concerned that employees and employers alike have not yet been provided with a means by which those who had to pay fees can reclaim them.

He said: “All employees should have the opportunity to access the court system, regardless of their financial circumstances. The introduction of the fees clearly put up a barrier to those who could not afford the costs involved and we have already been contacted by members of the public previously put off by them and by some who had made claims in this period and now want to recover their fees. For the former, there is a question as to whether they can now enter claims later than the typical three month time limit.”

In brief:

• Employees can now make a claim without having to pay an employment tribunal fee. This applies to online, post and in person.

• If you did pay fees you will be eligible to apply for a refund. A refund scheme will be announced by the UK government in September 2017. This will also include guidelines regarding cases heard during this time when employers were ordered to reimburse fees to the claimant.

• The Supreme Court ruling is specific to the 2013 fee structure, meaning the government in the future could introduce a new fee system that is deemed fair for all and this seems likely to happen.

Fee free claims can now be submitted online at

If you are an employee or an employer seeking or requiring any employment law advice regarding an employment tribunal claim, it’s important that you seek the appropriate advice.