Slave #Britain: Fees for employment tribunals, zero hour contracts, and the work programme

g20-protests2_1374149cAs of today, anyone wanting to take their case to an employment tribunal will face hefty fees to seek justice.

Employment tribunals (originally known as Industrial Tribunals) have been in place since 1960, and the scheme was considered a layer of protection from poor employer practices and abuse of employees.

The new fees will mean that it will cost the applicant £160 to lodge cases concerning wages, refusal for time off etc. (Type A claims), and £250 for discrimination, dismissal etc. (Type B claims), and either £230 (Type A) or £950 (Type B) if the case progresses.

If the applicant is unable to pay the fees, they can apply for the fees to be reduced or waived through Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunal Service remissions scheme, although there is no guarantee that the reduction or waiver will be granted.

If, for example, someone was wrongfully dismissed from a low paying job, they would find it very difficult to afford the application fees and may be discouraged from making a claim because of the complicated process involved.

The introduction of fees has been criticised by unions.

The TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, told the Guardian “Today is a great day for Britain’s worst bosses. By charging upfront fees for harassment and abuse claims, the government is making it easier for employers to get away with the most appalling behaviour.” She continued “These reforms are part of a wider campaign to get rid of workers’ basic rights at work. Its only achievement will be to price vulnerable people out of justice.”

Andy Prendergast of the GMB, told the BBC “The imposition of such fees represents the latest in a number of attacks on employment rights by the government. Bad employers are being given the green light to continue exploiting their staff.”

Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey told the BBC “What we are seeing today is injustice writ large as this worker-bashing government takes a sledgehammer to workers’ rights – this is a throwback to Victorian times,” and told the Guardian “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.”

A barrister at the employment law firm Leigh Day, Elizabeth George said “This sends a very dangerous message to employers who will be less inclined to abide by their legal obligations as the risk of being challenged will be much reduced,” and continued “We have already seen guidance from lawyers advising employers to wait to fire people as it will be cheaper and the chances of being taken to tribunal will be less following the introduction of fees. Instead of standing up for people suffering unlawful discrimination in the workplace, the government is doing the exact opposite by potentially penalising those who get pregnant, those who are disabled, those who fall ill and those who grow old.”

Under the new rules, there is a reduced cap on financial awards for unfair dismissal. The maximum compensation that could be awarded for routine unfair dismissal claims at an employment tribunal was a flat £74,200, to cover losses sustained as a direct consequence of your dismissal, such as past and future losses of salary. Now, though, it is the equivalent of 52 weeks’ pay or £74,200, whichever is the lower. In other words, securing more than a year’s salary is out of the question, no matter how long it takes you to find another job. This change applies to routine unfair dismissal claims (not for example, dismissals relating to health and safety, making a protected disclosure, or discrimination)

Zero Hour contracts.

There has been a sharp rise in the use of zero hour contracts in recent years.

Under the contracts, employers are legally allowed to employ staff, often in the lowest paid jobs, without any promise of actual work, or income, literally calling them up and summoning them to work or sending them home from one day to the next.

Workers are often trapped in jobs with no security, no regular income, and feeling like they have no choice but to be legally, at the beck and call of their employer.

In the NHS, up to 20% of social care workers are employed on zero hour contracts, raising concerns about the quality of care that is provided to vulnerable patients. The contracts are also used for ambulance crews.

Other companies using zero hours contracts are The Co-op, the House of Frazer, Boots, Bupa, Cineworld, Centerparcs, and many others.

The latest employer to come under fire for using zero hour contracts is Sports Direct. Nearly 90% of its workforce are employed on these contracts. The employees have no rights to sick leave or holiday pay.

According to the Office of National Statistics, the number of people employed on zero hour contracts has increased from 89,000 in 2004 to 200,000 in 2012.

Labour MP, Andy Sawford criticised the use of the contracts, and has submitted a private members bill to try and get them banned. He told the Guardian “The zero-hours contracts are highly exploitative and suit the company because it keeps people in a fragile state where they are at the beck and call of their employers.”

Work programme

The government is attempting to overturn the judgement made in February by appeal judges that the highly criticised Work Programme, which forced unemployed people to work for up to 780 hours without pay, was unlawful in sanctioning those who refused to do menial jobs for no pay.

In an attempt to force their Draconian slave labour measures, the government introduced retrospective legislation, with the intention of overturning the judgement of the appeal court.

The government are arguing that the secretary for work and pensions is entitled to a wide latitude of powers to devise employment schemes, and has never has to report the details of each scheme to parliament in the form of new regulations.

The court is expected to deliver its verdict in the autumn.

Britain is fast becoming a nation of economic slaves. The rights that have been fought for by millions to ensure workers are treated fairly are gradually being eroded by the current government.

We are moving into a time where the population are treated like cattle, and anyone who is unfit to contribute to the economic machine will be cast aside, in some cases they will be left to literally die, either from the stress of trying to cope in this artificial environment, or through poverty.

This artificial structure has moved away from ideals of equality, care, and society. We are rapidly moving to a structure where the super-rich will become richer, and everyone else (including those who consider themselves to be the comfortable middle-class) will become nothing more than machines to produce more wealth for the ‘elite’ while gradually being pushed into border-line desolation at every level.

Maybe 30 or 40 years ago there was a focus on substantial core values, but this has now changed to a self-interested abusive and downright evil regime of power.

Follow @martynjsymons

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