Saturday, July 14, 2012

Unfairly dismissed and looking for justice? Pay £1200 up front or shut up and go away.

The Government yesterday published their response to consultation on the introduction of fees in employment tribunals (https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/et-fee-charging-regime-cp22-2011/results/employment-tribunal-fees-consultation-response.pdf).

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.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is clear that the Tories are looking to ratchet up the anti worker laws to aide the employers.

However what is worrying it that tomorrow UNISON is seeking to further weaken a workers right to take on the employers in the courts.

99.9% of employment tribunal cases will obviously be a worker verses an employer and in most cases the worker can not have costs award against them in the ET and EAT.

However if a worker wants to appeal or defend an an appeal to the court of appeal against an employer they can face costs of a £100,000 or more if they lose.

In most cases this allows a bullying employer to force a worker to back down. Many employment and Human rights lawyers have been complaining for some time over the denial of access to the law purely based on money rather than the merits of the case.

In light of this it is disgraceful that unison is seeking to reinforce case law by defending the right to claim costs against workers, in this case an appeal that was initiated by them after they have lost twice in the lower courts.

Put aside the issue of whether UNISON should waste £200,000 of members money on pursuing the case against the socialist party 4 they could still do this without seeking to defend their right to claim costs which will only serve to defend the bosses interests by reinforcing the law in their favour.

We are calling on all activists to ask unison to reconsider even at this late stage to reconsider their position on this issue alone.

This is not about supporting us or defending the unions right to appeal the case but merely on a costs issue.

By pursuing the case re costs it will not aide unison one bit. Because we can not afford to defend the case if we are not given a costs protection order tomorrow we will have to withdraw.

Unlike the lower courts the case goes ahead in our absence. If in those circumstance unison wins it can not claims its costs against us or the court as such unions has nothing to lose by agreeing to stating it won't claim costs against us unless of course its intention is to bully us out of being represented in the case.

It is bad enough that the union is acting in a malicious way against us, however to damage the rights of all british workers is unforgivable.

Glenn Kelly