wage equality scalesThe UK government is to refund up to £32m to workers who have taken their cases to an employment tribunal following a Supreme Court Ruling.

The Supreme Court judgment unanimously found that employment tribunal fees are unlawful.

Workers who brought a claim to tribunal have been charged fees since July 2013. They were charged further fees should they have taken the tribunal to appeal.

The ruling made by seven Supreme Court judges means the UK government will repay an estimated £32m to claimants who have been charged a fee.

Trade union Unison took the case after unsuccessful attempts to overturn fees in the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

Unison argued the fees made it “virtually impossible or excessively difficult” for some individuals to exercise their employment rights.

Since their introduction, official statistics show the number of claims dropped by 79% in England and Wales.

The court ruled that the introduction of fees has resulted in a dramatic and persistent fall in the number of claims.

The highest costs were accrued in discrimination cases because of the time and the complexities involved.

The Supreme Court found this was indirectly discriminatory because a higher proportion of women would bring discrimination cases.

The Supreme Court added that cases were unaffordable to claimants in low or middle income households who could not pay the fees “without sacrificing ordinary and reasonable expenditure for substantial periods of time”.

It also said that some people would not bring cases to employment tribunals because paying the fees would render any financial reward pointless.

The Supreme Court decided that tribunal fees are also unlawful under the EU legal guarantee of an effective remedy.

In Northern Ireland and in the Republic claimants do not have to pay a fee to make a claim to an employment tribunal.