In his latest blog for Infologue.com, David Ward of Ward Security discusses the recent Supreme Court ruling. David writes: “Following a four year battle by Unison, the Supreme Court has allowed an appeal holding that the Employment Tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunals Fees Order 2013 is unlawful and will be quashed. Unison is hailing this as a major victory for employees everywhere, and especially for those who have effectively been denied access to justice.
“There was some dismay when employment tribunal fees were first introduced in July 2013 by the then Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling. It meant that any employee who had a case against their employer, for example in the case of wage claims, breach of contract, unfair dismissal, race and sex discrimination, would have to pay a fee to bring their case to tribunal.
“There were two scales of fees levied on people who wanted to bring cases, and these fees started at £390 for a type ‘A’ claim such as wage claims or breach of contract, and £1200 for more serious type ‘B’ claims. These fees were a deterrent for many low paid workers, who will have chosen not to pursue their cases. They will also have deterred better paid employees who figured the fees were disproportionate for a low value claim.
“Interestingly, Baroness Hale concluded that it was also indirectly discriminatory to charge higher fees for type ‘B’ claims which include discrimination claims.
“While it can never be known how many claims were discouraged, it is known that the introduction of fees coincided with an almost instant 70% reduction in the number of claims being taken to tribunal.
“The legal profession is already gearing up for a sudden surge in claims from employees who believe they have valid cases. The Supreme Court ruled that all fees charged since 2013 should be repaid, and Unison has estimated this will amount to more than £27m.
“Employers within the security industry should pay heed and take this judgement seriously.
“While good employers will already have excellent processes in place, the judgement should underline the importance of dealing with workplace issues correctly to reduce the risk of a claim being brought against them. However, before any issues arise, they should already be reviewing their HR processes to ensure they are suitable, and should also ensure they fully understand their responsibilities to their employees.
“At Ward Security we are very proud of our reputation as an employer and we believe the more we invest in our people, the better our people will be able to deliver great service and results.
“Earlier in 2017 we became a Recognised Service Provider working alongside the Living Wage Foundation, and our commitment to our staff was recognised in 2016 by Investors in People. Ward Security remains one of the few Investor in People (Gold) employers in the sector with a score of 167 out of 174 in an independent audit conducted on behalf of the Security Industry Authority (SIA). This puts us within the top 2% of all security companies.
“While we pride ourselves on our achievements and attitude to our staff, like all businesses we are concerned that this Supreme Court judgement will once again cause a rise of cases taken by no-win-no-fee lawyers who will look for a settlement on the door step of the tribunal knowing this is a cheaper way out for employers, even if they are in the right. If the cases previously were fair cases the fee would have been repaid. There is certainly an argument that the industrial tribunal fees will have discouraged false or unrealistic claims as much as they discouraged valid claims. But with the removal of the fee regime, we must all be prepared”.