The High Court today dismissed a union’s appeal against new fees for employment tribunals.
Trade union Unison had sought to question the legality of fees introduced by the government in July 2013.
But the court said there is still insufficient evidence to show the fees are making it more difficult to bring cases to a tribunal, as opponents to the changes claim.
Mr Justice Foskett said: ‘Before the court could begin to act it would need to be satisfied that a more than minimal number of people with arguably legitimate claims would find it virtually impossible or excessively difficult to bring such matters before an employment tribunal because of the fees that would require to be paid.’
The court granted Unison leave to appeal, and the union has already stated it will take up that option.
General secretary Dave Prentis said: ‘The High Court’s decision is disappointing but we will fight on and do everything possible to ensure that these punitive fees introduced by the government are abolished.’
The application for judicial review challenged the fee scheme on two grounds: prohibitive cost for bringing a claim and indirect discrimination against women, ethnic minorities and the disabled.
Unison’s legal challenge was originally dismissed by the High Court in February as the argument was ‘premature’.
The union said it now had the relevant evidence and statistics to make good its claim that the fees are unlawful.
Both Unison and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which intervened, said the fees are too high and the only purpose of the state imposing them was to make money.
Justice secretary Chris Grayling contended that the claims were still premature and that the very generalised nature of the statistics relied upon, with an absence of any concrete examples of specific individuals allegedly denied access to the tribunals, made it impossible for the court to find in the claimant’s favour.
Lord Justice Elias, sitting alongside Foskett, said the imposition of fees to help pay for the service was ‘plainly in principle’ a legitimate aim designed to ensure users make a contribution to costs.
Foskett added it was ‘speculative’ to suggest that a reduction in applications was due directly to the imposition of fees.
The introduction of tribunal fees in July 2013 appears to have had a dramatic impact on the number of claims made.
The number of claims dropped by 81% to 6,019 between January and March 2014, compared with the same quarter in 2013, according to government statistics. In the last quarter of 2013 claims fell by 79%, compared with the last quarter of 2012.
For an individual claimant the fees are £400 on issue and £1,200 following a direction by the tribunal that the matter is to proceed to an oral hearing.