The trade union told a judicial review hearing yesterday that the fees contravene EU law and make it almost impossible for workers to exercise their rights.
For the first time people who want to make a claim at a tribunal must pay a fee.
Simple claims such as unlawful deductions from wages will cost £160 for issue and £230 for the case to be heard. More complex claims, such as unfair dismissal and discrimination, will cost £250 for issue and £950 for the hearing.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said 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”.
Unison added that the balance in the workplace already “favours employers" and charging individuals to bring a claim against their bosses is “unfair and underhand”.
No drop in claims yet
Andrew Knorpel, partner and head of the employment team at Mundays, told HR magazine that the fees hadn't appeared to affect the number of people bringing claims.
“Interestingly, the Ministry of Justice's latest published provisional statistics indicate that approximately 40,000 claims were received in the three month period June to September 2013, which bridged the introduction of the fees on 29 July 2013,” he said.
“This is roughly the same as in recent years, but it will be interesting to see if they change when the statistics are confirmed in December and whether the next quarter's statistics show the ‘significant drop’ being suggested by Unison.”
If Unison’s challenge is successful, the Ministry of Justice has promised to refund fees already paid. In the meantime, attempting to file a claim without a fee or an application for remission will result in the claim being rejected outright.
The judicial review is expected to last two days.