Tribunal changes deny staff right to justice, say unions

The Government has caused controversy by announcing a fee of up to £1,200 for taking claims to an employment tribunal.

Unions said the decision was a disgrace and warned employees would be denied their right to justice. Business groups welcomed the move, but complained most claimants would be exempt from the new rules.

Ministers said tribunals cost the taxpayer more than £84m a year, with no contribution from those taking claims.

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Cases involving unpaid wages and redundancy pay will have an initial fee of £160 and a charge of £230 if it goes to a hearing, while those relating to unfair dismissal, discrimination complaints and equal pay claims will have an issue fee of £250 and a hearing fee of £950.

Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly said: “It’s not fair on the taxpayer to foot the entire £84m bill for people to escalate workplace disputes to a tribunal. We want people, where they can, to pay a fair contribution for the system they are using, which will encourage them to look for alternatives.

“It is in everyone’s interest to avoid drawn-out disputes which emotionally damage workers and financially damage businesses. That’s why we are encouraging quicker, simpler and cheaper alternatives like mediation.”

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “Many of the UK’s most vulnerable workers will simply be priced out of justice. The Government’s remission scheme to protect low-paid employees is woefully inadequate, and workers will be more likely to be mistreated at work as rogue bosses will be able to flout the law without fear of sanction.”

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “This is a disgraceful move that tips the scales of justice heavily towards employers, and denies legal redress to those who do not have the cash to pay for it.”

Alexander Ehmann of the Institute of Directors, said it strongly supports the decision to make people think twice before submitting vexatious or weak claims.

“Businesses are too often forced to defend themselves against claims which have no merit, incurring heavy costs in the process,” he said.

“However, the IoD is concerned that under current proposals many unemployed claimants will have their fees waived despite having the means to pay. Even the Government accepts this could mean that the majority of claimants are exempt from their new rules – a result that would undermine the entire purpose.”