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Court to hear tribunals challenge
The High Court will hear a union's challenge today against controversial new fees for workers taking an employment tribunal case.
Two judges in London are being asked to rule in a judicial review action brought by Unison over the introduction in July of what it describes as "punitive" fees.
People wanting to bring tribunals must now pay a fee for the first time since they were created in the 1960s.
Under the changes workers in the UK are now charged a fee to bring a claim, a fee if the claim is heard and a further charge if they want to appeal against the decision.
Depending on the type of case it will cost £160 or £250 to lodge a claim, with a further charge of either £230 or £950 if it goes ahead to a hearing - discrimination and unfair dismissal cases fall into the higher category of fees.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis says the introduction of "punitive fees for taking a claim to an employment tribunal would give the green light to unscrupulous employers to ride roughshod over already basic workers' rights".
The union argues that the fees are "unfair and should be dropped".
On the day the fees were introduced, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: "Seeking redress for unfair dismissal and discrimination and other injustices in the workplace is a fundamental human right - but now ministers are putting up insurmountable financial hurdles for working people in pursuit of justice.
"We estimate that this will affect 150,000 workers a year. This is not an aid to economic recovery but a means to keep working people frightened and insecure."
Employers' organisation the CBI welcomed the fees as a good way of "weeding out weak claims", and Alexander Ehmann, of the Institute of Directors, said: "Charging user fees for employment tribunals will reduce the number of unmerited claims which get a hearing, saving money for both employers and taxpayers."
The Government says the aim of introducing fees "is to transfer some of the approximate £74 million cost of running the employment tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal from the taxpayer to those who use the system".
HM Courts and Tribunals Service said it would refund people if the bid to abolish the charges succeeded.
The judicial review is expected to last two days and will be heard by Lord Justice Moses and Mr Justice Irwin.