In a ruling hailed as a victory for workers, the Supreme Court says the Government acted unlawfully when it introduced the fees.
Unison has won a “landmark” court victory against the Government over fees for workers taking claims to an employment tribunal.
The Supreme Court unanimously ruled the Government was acting unlawfully and unconstitutionally when it introduced the fees four years ago.
According to Unison, the ruling means the Government will have to refund more than £27m to the thousands of people charged for taking claims to tribunal.
The decision marks the end of a four-year battle by Unison to overturn the policy.
The fees were introduced in July 2013 by Chris Grayling, then the Lord Chancellor in a bid to reduce costs and free up clogged up courts.
Unison argued that the fees of up to £1,200 prevented workers from seeking justice and were discriminatory toward women and other groups of workers.
Unions hailed the decision as a victory for workers’ rights.
“It’s a major victory for employees everywhere,” said Unison General secretary Dave Prentis.
“Unison took the case on behalf of anyone who’s ever been wronged at work, or who might be in future. Unscrupulous employers no longer have the upper hand.”
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said “tribunal fees have been a bonanza for bad bosses, giving them free rein to mistreat staff.”
“Too many low-paid workers couldn’t afford to uphold their rights at work, even when they’ve faced harassment or have been sacked unfairly.”
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said “this landmark ruling should mark an end to Employment Tribunal fees standing in the way of people upholding their employment rights.”
There has been no immediate reaction from the Government.
David Isaac, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which provided independent legal opinion during the case, called for the current policy to be scrapped.
He called the Supreme Court ruling a “damning verdict on the current regime”.
“The right to justice must be based on the merit of your case, not your ability to pay. Thousands may have been denied of this right and priced out of getting justice,” he said.
“Women face a double penalty with high fees and short time scales to bring maternity discrimination cases.”
A review of the impact of the fees conducted this year showed there had been a 70% drop in the number of cases since they were first introduced.