A trade union has lost a High Court action over an order which imposed fees for the first time on workers wanting to bring tribunal proceedings against their employers.
Unison had urged two judges in London to quash what it argued was an "unlawful" order, imposing "unfair and punitive" fees.
Lord Justice Moses and Mr Justice Irwin, announcing their decision today in judicial review proceedings, dismissed the claim.
Under changes introduced last July, 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 a decision.
The action by Unison was opposed by Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling.
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".
Lord Justice Moses said the court thought that the "fundamental flaw in these proceedings is that they are premature and that the evidence at this stage lacks that robustness necessary to overturn the regime".
At a hearing last year, Unison's QC Karon Monaghan told the judges that its case was that the order under challenge - the Employment Tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal Fees Order 2013 - was "indirectly discriminatory and unlawful" and "ought to be quashed".
She said the order introduced a requirement "for the first time" that fees be paid - "subject to remission" - to bring tribunal proceedings.
The effect of the order was that any claim in the Employment Tribunal (ET) and the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) "may only be instituted and continued to hearing upon payment of fees, subject only to an individual applying for, and then qualifying for, a remission..."
Ms Monaghan said Mr Grayling, who contested the action, "relies on the remission arrangements which he contends 'should negate or substantially reduce the impact on the claimants with limited financial means, by wholly exempting or providing them with discounts on a sliding scale'".
But she argued: "The remission arrangements are not adequate for this purpose."
She told the court that the introduction of fees constituted a "very significant departure from the scheme in place, in broadly its present form, for some 40 years or thereabouts".
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.
In the EAT, the fees are £400 to lodge an appeal and £1,200 for a full hearing.
Ms Monaghan pointed to what she described as the "very severe and likely impact on potential claimants in discrimination claims", submitting that the requirement to pay higher fees in such claims "is not justified".
Susan Chan, representing the Lord Chancellor, told the judges that the objective behind the introduction of fees was to "transfer a proportion of the costs of funding the employment tribunals and Employment Appeal Tribunal to users that can afford it".
She said in written submissions before the court: "It is also believed that the introduction of fees can contribute to improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the current scheme by encouraging employers and employees to resolve workplace disputes as early as possible, rather than litigate with the consequent emotional, financial and time demands that this places on all parties.
"Litigation should not be regarded as a 'first' resort."
After the ruling Unison, the UK's largest union, pledged to continue its fight over the fees regime.
In a statement the union said it wants to take the case further to allow the Court of Appeal to consider its arguments, and "in particular that the introduction of fees has a disproportionate impact on women".
General secretary Dave Prentis said: " Today's decision is very disappointing but we will fight on and take our very strong arguments into the Appeal Court.
"We provided clear evidence that since the fees were introduced, the number of employment tribunal cases has collapsed.
"It is doubly disappointing therefore that it was decided that our case had been taken too early.
" Apart from the fact that judicial review cases have to be taken within a three-month period, extracting the information we provided to the court required detailed FOI (freedom of information) requests, because statistics were not readily available in the public domain. These statistics showed a very large drop in tribunal claims, which the High Court described as 'dramatic'.
"The sad fact is that workers are being treated unfairly now. They should not be made to wait in the vain hope that the Government will act on the falling number of cases and scrap the fees altogether.
"We are pleased that pressure from our case did win a significant concession from Government so that workers winning their claims are entitled to have the fees reimbursed by their employers.
"The bottom line is that the Government should not put a price on justice. We strongly believe that these fees are unfair and should be dropped, which is what we will argue in the Court of Appeal."