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Civil Litigation: the Employment Tribunal Fees Saga

One of the biggest headlines of the summer was the UK Supreme Court decision concerning the legality of employment tribunal fees. 

As civil litigation and employment law experts, we at Lewis Nedas have followed the ups and downs of the case with deep interest. This month saw the UK Government begin to refund the illegally charged fees, the crucial next practical step following on from the Supreme Court’s judgment.

The Supreme Court Decision

The case relates to fees that the Government introduced in 2013 in relation to employment tribunals. The fees ranged up to £1,200 and were intended to reduce the number of illegitimate and unsubstantiated claims taken to tribunal.

It was successfully argued that this was unlawful. The Court noted that the fees had resulted in a dramatic and persistent drop in cases being brought and that the fees were essentially acting as a barrier to justice.

The Court held that:

“In order for the fees to be lawful, they have to be set at a level that everyone can afford, taking into account the availability of full or partial remission. The evidence now before the court, considered realistically and as a whole, leads to the conclusion that that requirement is not met.”


The Court particularly noted the impact on low and middle-income families, stating that:

“Where households on low to middle incomes can only afford fees by sacrificing the ordinary and reasonable expenditure required to maintain what would generally be regarded as an acceptable standard of living, the fees cannot be regarded as affordable.”


Ultimately, the introduction of fees was held to be unlawful. In light of this, the Government has to refund the illegal fees.

Refunding the Fees

As of 20 October, the first people eligible for employment tribunal fee refunds can apply. The refund process is being phased in. As part of the first phase, approximately 1,000 people will be individually contacted to complete applications. The scheme will then fully open to everyone in the next four weeks. The Government is also working with trade unions that have helped to lead multiple actions and group claims where hundreds of complainants have been involved.

It is important to note that, in addition to the original fee charged, the applicants who successfully claim their refund will also be paid interest at a rate of 0.5% calculated from the date of the original payment up until the refund date.

The first 1,000 people will be invited to join the refund application process. If you have not been invited to join the process at this stage, the Government has set up a pre-registration scheme where those who are interested in applying can register their interest.

It is not only individuals who may be able to claim under the regime. Employers who lost cases and who were then ordered to pay the fees of claimants may be able to reclaim funds.

In order to be able to reclaim your fees, it would be advisable to seek legal advice as to what documentation may be required. It would be wise to look for bank statements showing fees paid or any tribunal judgment that refers to the fees paid.

You should also seek legal advice if you did not make a claim as a result of tribunal fees. It may be that you are still within the time frame to make the claim and can therefore now proceed. However, even if you are making a late claim, it may be possible to make the claim if you can prove that the fees precluded you from going ahead in the first instance. Again, evidence such as bank statements will be important and helpful to your case. If this applies to you, do not hesitate to get in touch and we will establish if and how we can best assist you.

Our Expertise at Lewis Nedas

At Lewis Nedas, we are expert civil litigators and employment law specialists. We have experience of acting for both employees and employers in all aspects of employment law, and have represented clients in many employment dispute and workplace-related actions. We can advise on a wide range of employment law issues, including tribunal representation, discrimination law, contractual disputes, unfair dismissal and constructive dismissal.

We can offer tribunal and court representation, but we are also experts in arbitration and alternative dispute resolution (ADR). ADR is often the least expensive, time consuming and disruptive way to resolve an employment law dispute. In most cases, we will help you come to a successful resolution using these less formal procedures.

Where litigation is the most appropriate form of dispute resolution, we will instruct leading employment specialist advocates and barristers, and offer concise, prompt advice and a personally tailored service at a reasonable price.

If you have any queries arising from the issues raised in this article, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are aware of the serious ramifications that the UK Supreme Court decision is having. If you think you are eligible to reclaim illegal fees, you must be proactive and act decisively. We are here to help you do this and guide you through the process.

Contact our Civil Litigation Lawyers in London

Reclaiming funds wrongfully charged to you should not be a stressful process. We can assist make this as painless as possible and ensure you receive the justice you deserve. To speak to one of our solicitors, please telephone us on 020 3811 7786 or complete our online enquiry form.

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