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CBI calls for employment tribunal reform following landmark ruling

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has cautiously welcomed last week’s Supreme Court ruling that found that the government acted “unlawfully and unconstitutionally” when it introduced employment tribunal fees in 2013

Neil Carberry, CBI Managing Director for People and Infrastructure, said: “The CBI has long held the view that the current employment tribunal fees regime is flawed and should be reformed.

“Access to justice is essential and must be protected. There is an important role for a proportionate fee that acts as an incentive to ensure that going to tribunal is always a last resort, but that does not require the high fees introduced in 2013. We hope the government swiftly brings forward an alternative approach.”

He added: “More broadly, action is needed to return employment tribunals to their original vision - speedy, fair, informal and affordable for both workers and businesses.”

The case was brought by the public service trade union Unison, which described the ruling as a “massive win for our union and for all workers”.

Employees were having to pay up to £1,200 to take their employers to tribunal, with the government believed to have raised an estimated £27m in the past three years. Following the ruling, the Ministry of Justice confirmed that this will be refunded to claimants.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady commented: “Too many low-paid workers couldn’t afford to uphold their rights at work, even when they’ve faced harassment or have been sacked unfairly. Tribunal fees have been a bonanza for bad bosses, giving them free rein to mistreat staff. Any fees paid so far should be refunded as soon as possible.”

Employment tribunal claims reportedly fell by 70% as a result of the fees being introduced, with some wondering whether there will now be a sharp increase in cases. Julia Fitzsimmons, employment partner with Midlands-based law firm FBC Manby Bowdler, said: “The issue for employers is whether this will now see an increase in employment tribunal claims. There is no indication whether there will be any fee for presenting tribunal claims or whether the system will go back to the fee pay system prior to 2013.”

She added: “There is the concern that employees who were not bringing claims or raising grievances internally may now feel emboldened to do so. Employers [are] advised to review their systems and make sure they get the basics right, including handling disciplinary hearings and grievances properly in accordance with the ACAS code and their own complaint procedures.”