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Supreme Court strikes a victory for access to justice

26 July 2017

Striking down employment tribunal fees is a victory for the tens of thousands of people denied their rights at work, the Law Society of England and Wales said today.

The fees, which required people with a claim such as bullying or discrimination at work to pay up to £1,200 to have their case heard by the employment tribunal, were today declared unlawful by the UK Supreme Court.

"This decision is a triumph for access to justice, and a resounding blow against attempts to treat justice as a commodity rather than the right it is," declared Law Society president Joe Egan.

"We argued against the hike in tribunal fees before it was implemented and – like so many others - warned that they would deny people the chance to uphold their basic rights at work. Today the Supreme Court has vindicated that view, and restored access to justice for those mistreated in the workplace."

The Law Society has previously highlighted the massive drop in cases coming to the tribunal in the wake of the fees being introduced. It has also pointed to figures – contained in the Ministry of Justice's own review of the fees – showing at least 14,000 people every year are unable to afford to go to the tribunal to resolve their claims, as well as tens of thousands of missing cases.

Commenting on the wider implications of the case, Joe Egan added: "As the Supreme Court identified, these fees placed an insurmountable barrier in the way of tens of thousands of people.

"Access to justice is a fundamental right – if you can't enforce your rights then it renders them meaningless. Today's decision will serve as an urgently needed wake-up call - justice must never be a luxury for those who can afford it, it is a right we all share."

Notes to editors

Read the Supreme Court's full decision: R (on the application of UNISON) v Lord Chancellor.

The Law Society has consistently opposed the employment tribunal fees, highlighting the barrier to accessing justice they represent. Read more information, including analysis of the Ministry of Justice's review of the effect of the fees.

About the Law Society

The Law Society is the independent professional body that works globally to support and represent solicitors, promoting the highest professional standards, the public interest and the rule of law.

Press office contact: Oliver Searle | | +44 (0)20 7316 5624