The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is taking legal advice on the wider implications of last year’s Supreme Court ruling that the introduction of employment tribunal fees was unlawful, it has emerged.
It is also writing to everyone who paid a fee but has yet to claim a refund.
In the Supreme Court, Lord Reed said that in order for the courts to perform their role – including holding the government to account – “people must in principle have unimpeded access to them”.
He continued: “Without such access, laws are liable to become a dead letter, the work done by Parliament may be rendered nugatory, and the democratic election of Members of Parliament may become a meaningless charade. That is why the courts do not merely provide a public service like any other.”
In a letter to justice select committee chair Bob Neill about progress with the fees refund, dated last week but published yesterday, Lord Chancellor David Gauke said his officials were looking at the “wider implications” of the Supreme Court ruling.
“We have therefore also sought legal advice separately on the implications for MoJ and the way that the courts and tribunals are funded.”
This was in addition to the £305,000 spent on defending the Unison case.
On the refunds, Mr Gauke said it was unlikely that they would reach the £17m that the MoJ had roughly estimated would be paid out in 2017/18.
He continued: “Although the refund scheme has made reasonable progress, we have decided that further action is necessary.
“We are therefore writing over the next few months to everyone who paid an ET fee, but who has not yet applied for a refund, to raise awareness of the existence of the scheme, and providing details on how to apply. The first batch of 2,000 letters was issued on 9 April.”
The MoJ is collecting information of the volume of applications for permission to bring a claim to the ET out time with effect from 1 January.
Mr Gauke said the data collected to date, which only cover pregnancy and maternity discrimination cases, showed only “a negligible volume” of such applications.
“We are currently working to extend these arrangements so that this information will be collected across other ET jurisdictions, and we are also exploring whether information could be collected on the principal reasons that applications are made.”