Employment tribunal fees will deny the poorest workers justice

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date: 14 December 2011

embargo: For immediate release

Responding to the government's announcement today (Wednesday) that it intends to charge workers a fee to take claims to employment tribunals, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:

'Employment tribunals are a key way of enabling workers to enforce their rights. Government proposals to introduce a fee to lodge an initial claim - and then possibly a further charge for a full hearing - will effectively prevent the poorest and most vulnerable workers from ever being able to get justice.

'It is completely unacceptable that a worker on the minimum wage, who has been underpaid and denied holiday pay, may now have to pay a fee of £250 or more to claim back what they are entitled to because their employer flouted the law.

'Because the fees will be paid upfront and only refunded if a claim succeeds, the poorest workers and those without union backing will struggle to pay these costs. They are also the most likely to be deterred from pursuing a claim - especially as a high proportion of workers who win cases can struggle to recover the money owed by the employer. It is likely that many legitimate claims will be deterred, enabling rogue employers to act with impunity.

'Ministers say that it is right that workers using the employment tribunal service should pay for it, but they fail to consider that the reason workers have to resort to using the tribunal service in the first place is because their employers have failed to abide by the law.

'Levying higher fees on claims above £30,000 will penalise workers bringing discrimination claims, and in particular those who have suffered from the most blatant forms of prejudice.

'Rather than focus on denying workers the opportunity to pursue legitimate claims, the government should be ensuring that all workers are able to enforce their rights and should be directing its attention to tackling the rogue employers who behave as if they are above the law.'

NOTES TO EDITORS:

- The government report is available at www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/consultations/charging-fees-in-et-and-eat.pdf

- The proposed fees for access to employment tribunals are the latest in a long line of government proposals that the TUC believes will make it more difficult for workers to take action against employers who break the law. The qualifying period for claiming unfair dismissal is being doubled from one to two years, and proposed 'compensated no-fault' dismissals are being considered for small firms, replacing unfair dismissal protection. The current limits on deposit orders and on costs, expenses and preparation time orders are to be doubled, and legal aid for pre-claim advice for employment cases is being axed.

- All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk

Contacts:

Media enquiries:
Liz Chinchen T: 020 7467 1248 M: 07778 158175 E: media@tuc.org.uk
Rob Holdsworth T: 020 7467 1372 M: 07717 531150 E: rholdsworth@tuc.org.uk
Elly Gibson T: 020 7467 1337 M: 07900 910624 E: egibson@tuc.org.uk

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