Since the introduction of employment tribunal fees in July 2013, Citizens Advice report that four out of five employees who would otherwise have taken their employer to a tribunal are put off by the cost.
An employee wishing to take action against unfair treatment in the workplace or unfair dismissal faces fees of between £160 to £250 to issue a claim, and between £230 and £950 for a tribunal, which can bring the cost of making a claim to as high as £1200.
Citizens Advice found that of the people experiencing employment problems they surveyed, only 30% were aware that there was financial support available, leading the charity to call for better promotion of the support available, including a web based tool where people could check their eligibility.
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive, Citizens Advice said “The employment tribunal system is imbalanced against claimants. Fees are pricing people out of basic workplace rights and a justice system that is supposed to protect them. Unfair dismissals, employers withholding wages and discrimination are problems that Citizens Advice is unfortunately hearing about all too often.
“Many claims go unheard as people simply can’t afford to pursue it and there’s a real risk that if they do employers still won’t pay up. Claims are often for amounts below the fees so this leaves some having to concede valid claims.
“It is concerning that people are often unsure on what they are entitled to claim and so find it difficult to judge whether or not to pursue a case. We know that some must save for months to afford a tribunal. People must be made aware of the help and support available to them if they are on low incomes.
“The Government needs to take an urgent look again at how the fee system benefits those workers who feel the prices are a barrier to justice.”
Before the fees were introduced, Employment Tribunals (ETs) received an average of 48,000 new claims per quarter. However the most recent ET figures for July to September 2014 show that this had dropped to 13,612 new claims.
The government’s public explanation for introducing the fees was in order to incentivise earlier settlements, ease the cost to taxpayers and bring the employment tribunal in line with other justice systems.
However, it is clear that introducing fees has hit the people who need protection from unscrupulous employers the most – the poor and vulnerable of our society.
The message the government is giving is that people who are poor are not entitled to fair and equal justice.
Last week the trade union Unison, which wants to abolish the fees, lost a second bid to have the fees legally reviewed. Despite the dismissal, the Court of Appeal has granted Unison permission to appeal the decision.
Damian Brown QC, a sports and employment lawyer and former chair of the Employment Law Bar Association, told The Independent “Most of the profession believes access to justice should be free … Most businesses have insurance or the opportunity to join an employer’s federation for a small fee, so the idea of tribunal fees being a protection against frivolous claims is not a significant problem.”
Harini Iyengar, a barrister who specialises in employment and discrimination law, said “The drop we’ve seen in employment tribunal cases has been extremely striking; I’ve not seen anything like it in 15 years of practice … It is important in a democratic country we respect working people and tribunals are essential for the British economy and to a vibrant working community.”
The government has been claiming that unemployment has been reducing but fail to mention that many of those who are now included in their figures are people working very unstable minimum waged jobs on part-time and zero-hour contracts. People experiencing unfair, or illegal treatment who are employed in these positions can not afford to bring unscrupulous employers to task.
We are then in a positon where a percentage of the UKs workforce is slave labour.
They become trapped in a system where they are forced to do menial work, have little legal redress against abuse by employers, face incredible problems from a benefit system which is in disarray and designed to deter claimants, have little to no chance of gaining training unless they are able to fund it themselves, and have little chance of finding real jobs because they still remain elusive.
Effectively, the government are attempting to turn the UK into the ‘China of the West’.
Despite government propaganda, all most people want is a secure future, which includes secure employment on a living wage
The government has delivered:
- Massive cuts in training opportunities
- More unemployment for people who worked in public services
- Destabilisation of the job market
- Financial insecurity for millions of people
- The devaluing wages to a level not seen since the 1980s
- Failure to regulate core living expenses, including services such as energy.
- Pushing more people below the poverty line than at any time in recent history.
- Taken away any legal redress to unfair treatment for the poor and vulnerable in society.
Making access to legal services for those who can not afford it is another example of how this government has embarked on a deliberate policy of social engineering – penalising the poor for being poor and vulnerable and looking after the rich who make up the majority of their party donors.
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