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Employment law guide

Employment tribunals

Employment tribunals (which were originally known as industrial tribunals) are a system of courts that have authority to deal with a number of different types of claims and disputes on matters arising between an employer and their workforce.


Employment tribunals can award compensation for unfair dismissal up to a statutory limit, set by the government, and in some cases, including all discrimination claims, there is no limit on how much compensation they can award.

Employment tribunal fees

On July 29th 2013 a fees system was introduced, with an unfair dismissal or discrimination claim, for example, costing a total of £1,200 to go to a hearing.

Following a judgment from the Supreme Court on July 26th 2017, HM Courts and Tribunals Service said: “We have immediately taken steps to stop charging fees for proceedings in the Employment Tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal”.

Supreme Court rules Tribunal fees are unlawful - July 2017

Employment tribunal fees are unlawful because they prevent access to justice and must be scrapped, the Supreme Court ruled on July 26th 2017.

The Supreme Court announcement said: “The Fees Order is unlawful under both domestic and EU law because it has the effect of preventing access to justice. Since it had that effect as soon as it was made, it was therefore unlawful and must be quashed.

“The constitutional right of access to the courts is inherent in the rule of law: it is needed to ensure that the laws created by Parliament and the courts are applied and enforced.

“Tribunals are more than merely the providers of a service which is only of value to those who bring claims before them. As a matter of domestic law, the Fees Order is unlawful if there is a real risk that persons will effectively be prevented from having access to justice, or if the degree of intrusion into access to justice is greater than is justified by the purposes of the Fees Order”.

The court said the fees were also indirectly discriminatory towards women under the Equality Act 2010.

The full judgment is here: The Supreme Court.

More information from UNISON, the union which campaigned against fees and brought the case: UNISON website.

ACAS early conciliation scheme

The ACAS early conciliation scheme was introduced with effect from May 6th 2014. Potential claimants have to provide information to ACAS before presenting a claim allowing an opportunity for conciliation, and a certificate from ACAS must be obtained before presenting a claim to the employment tribunal.