Organisations oppose plans to bring back tribunal fees

Forty-eight organisations, including the TUC and Maternity Action, have signed a letter opposing the reintroduction of employment tribunal fees.

Gavel with employment written on it, representing employment law

 

Forty eight organisations ranging from the TUC to Maternity Action have called on government to reconsider its plans to bring back employment tribunal fees.

The Government has opened a consultation on introducing a ‘modest’ one-off fee of £55 in the employment tribunal and the employment tribunal system.

In 2017 the Supreme Court quashed a previous tribunal fees regime because it “effectively prevents access to justice, and is therefore unlawful”. The regime under which people had to pay as much as £250 for a claim and £950 for a tribunal hearing was introduced in 2013.

The joint statement by the 48 organisations says the decision will put yet another hurdle in front of those seeking justice. Other hurdles include lack of awareness of key employment rights and the process for bringing a claim, strict time limits on filing claims, an under-resourced employment tribunal system leading to significant delays in cases being heard and an under-funded labour market enforcement system.

The groups say that introducing fees will encourage exploitation of workers.  They say: “We believe this will deter many from lodging worthy claims and gives a green light to bad employers to exploit their workers.

“Bad employers are being given the go-ahead to undercut good ones, safe in the knowledge they are less likely to face claims in the employment tribunal.

“Employment rights are only real if they are enforced. Tribunal fees risk pricing many workers out of workplace justice.”

They raise concerns about the impact on workers in the middle of a cost of living crisis, saying: “Workers seeking recovery of wage theft, unpaid redundancy pay and compensation for unfair dismissal are to be asked to stump up extra money at an incredibly tough moment in their lives.

Fee exemption procedures are complex and difficult to understand for many, especially within the three months’ time limit for most claims.

“Fees are also being levied at a time when rising inflation and subdued wages are putting pressure on family budgets. Access to justice must never be contingent on your ability to pay.”

And they warn that those at the sharp end includes workers already at high risk of mistreatment, stating:  “Tribunal fees risk pricing many workers out of workplace justice, especially workers at greater risk of employment law violations such as pregnant workers, disabled workers and migrant workers.”

Rosalind Bragg, Director at Maternity Action Group, said:   “For pregnant women and new mothers in the cost of living crisis, every penny counts.  Charging fees for employment tribunal claims puts the justice system out of reach for women at a time when they are most in need of protection.

“If the Government is serious about stamping out maternity discrimination, they should be reducing barriers to justice not increasing them.”



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