From some point in the latter half of 2013 a two tier structure of fees for bringing claims to employment tribunals will be introduced. For many claims (including unfair dismissal and discrimination) there will be an initial fee of £250 to submit a claim and a further fee of £950 to go to a hearing. So that's £1200 up front for a chance of justice. If you win the boss might have to pay this sum on top of any compensation, but you'll still have to find the money first (with remission of fees on the same basis as the civil courts for those on low incomes).
Certain simpler claims (including claims for unauthorised deductions) will cost £160 to submit and face a hearing fee of £230. £390 is small change to a member of the Cabinet of Millionaires, but not to a worker trying to enforce their legal right to holiday pay or the minimum wage.
The TUC are right to condemn this outrage(http://www.tuc.org.uk/equality/tuc-21213-f0.cfm). The Government have ignored strong opposition - and not just from trade unions. The Equality and Human Rights Commission, opposing the requirement to pay fees to bring discrimination claims, argued;
"The Commission believes that requiring payment of a fee to bring a discrimination claim may breach the principle of effectiveness as it will make it difficult for individuals to enforce their EU law rights. We do not think that the measures set out at paragraph 3.5 of the EIA will "ensure that no one is denied access to justice through the introduction of a fee." Nor do we think that those measures are likely to be proportionate and thus justify what would otherwise amount to indirect discrimination."
This is transparently an attempt to discourage claims being brought to employment tribunals, and to give even greater leeway to bad employers to exploit workers. Professional whingers on the employers' behalf (such as the Institute of Directors) complain that it's too easy for workers to pursue misconceived claims against them - but the truth is that it's already hard enough.
The unions need to ensure that Labour is pledged to repeal these charges but, in the mean time, we need to determine whether, and if so when, unions should pay these fees for our members. This is not a straightforward question and requires careful thought.
The details have yet to be worked out in full - the consultation report states that "In the next stage of our implementation work we will review in detail all claim types and how and when fees are charged. There will be published guidance to ensure that claimants and respondents know when fees are paid, how they are paid and how much is payable. We will also provide clear guidance on the remissions system which will support the fee structure."
Unions need a policy and practice in place in twelve months time to deal with this deliberate obstacle being placed in the way of working people seeking justice.
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