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The Supreme Court has ruled that fees for bringing employment tribunal claims are unlawful.

The UK’s highest court has allowed Unison’s long-fought appeal against the fees, saying that the government acted unlawfully and unconstitutionally when it brought in the fees four years ago.

The government will take steps immediately to stop charging employment tribunal fees and to repay all fees which have been paid since their introduction in 2013, a figure reported to be up to £32m.

This is a significant win for workers, as the regime was widely regarded as a barrier to justice because low-paid workers were unable to uphold their rights at work. Since fees were introduced, the number of employment tribunal cases has reduced by about 80%.

Employers will now have to prepare for a much more contentious environment as workers will be once again free to assert their rights without financial constraints.

There is also the question of whether those who were prevented from bringing claims (because of the cost) will now be able to validly claim that their limitation periods should be extended. Normally, an employee must bring a claim within three months, so the practicalities of this landmark decision remain to be seen.

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