Friday, 18 September 2015

Working on justice for all

In July 2013, the last coalition government, led by David Cameron and Nick Clegg, introduced charges of up to £1,200 for individuals who wanted and needed to take their case to an employment tribunal.

It appears that this is just part of a relentless Conservative attack on the ability of ordinary working people to be supported and represented in the workplace – especially when things go wrong.
It is clear that these charges have become a significant barrier to securing justice where people have been treated unfairly and improperly. The introduction of these employment tribunal fees has seen the number of new cases plummet.

In the six months up to March 2014, new cases were down 62% on the same period in 2012-13; cases involving unfair dismissal were down by 64%, those involving alleged sex discrimination by 80%, and those relating to equal pay by 84%. They haven’t recovered since with the number of new cases in the last two quarters of 2014-15 down 69% on the same period two years ago.

Recent statistics also show that fewer than one in five applications for employment tribunal fee reductions are successful. Less than 4,000 of the 21,000 cases, where fees were required, were awarded a full or partial remission in 2014/15.

When giving evidence to the Justice Select Committee in July, the Conservative Justice Secretary Michael Gove said that “a simple reduction in the numbers of people going to employment tribunals is not in itself proof that there’s been any injustice visited on anyone.” He added “….. there is no evidence yet that the bar being set at a high level has meant that meritorious claims by people who feel they’ve been discriminated against aren’t being heard.” That is not a view shared by those now being denied justice.

I think the employment tribunal system does need reform so that workers have access to justice, employers get a quick resolution, and the costs are controlled. Following much pressure, the government has now announced a review into these fees.

If you have been affected, or you have ideas for improvement, please let me know.