14 February 2014 #Employment
UNISON’s attempt to challenge to the introduction of fees in the employment tribunals and EAT by way of judicial review in the High Court has failed. The High Court found that the fundamental difficulty with the case was that it had been brought prematurely and that, as a result, the robust evidence needed to persuade it to overturn the fees regime had been absent. However, the Court made it clear that the Lord Chancellor will be under a duty to amend the fees regime if future statistics show that the "principle of effectiveness" under EU law is being infringed. In the meantime, Unison has stated its intention to appeal to the Court of Appeal.
Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON, said:
".. we will fight on and take our very strong arguments into the Appeal Court. We provided clear evidence that since the fees were introduced, the number of employment tribunal cases has collapsed. It is doubly disappointing therefore that it was decided that our case had been taken too early. Apart from the fact that judicial review cases have to be taken within a three-month period, extracting the information we provided to the court required detailed FOI requests, because statistics were not readily available in the public domain. These statistics showed a very large drop in tribunal claims, which the High Court described as `dramatic`.
Clearly, the matter is far from closed.
Two points relevant to the conduct of claims under the fees system have also come out of the High Court decision.Firstly, the Court expressed the view that tribunals should order witness statements and documents to be exchanged before a hearing fee is due. Secondly, revised MoJ guidance now provides that a successful claimant should generally expect to recover their fees from the respondent, and consideration is being given to amending the ET and EAT rules so as to clarify the position.