Wed Jul 31st, 2013 at 09:25:39 AM EST
It was surely only a matter of time, in the wider context of reducing workers' rights bit by bit:
BBC News - Fees for employment tribunals begin
People bringing employment tribunals [claims] must now pay a fee for the first time since they were created in the 1960s.
Under the new UK rules, they will have to pay £160 or £250 to lodge a claim, with a further charge of either £230 or £950 if the case goes ahead.
The higher charges will cover cases like unfair dismissal, the lower ones issues such as unpaid invoices.
It speaks for itself really. This issue isn't about dreadful employees, it is about workers being able to seek justice when they have been treated unfairly at work. Bosses moan about how difficult it is to sack underperforming employees, yet don't invest in decent performance appraisal and personal development schemes.
Unions protest over new employment tribunal fees | Money | The Guardian
The TUC general secretary, Frances O'Grady, said: "Today is a great day for Britain's worst bosses. By charging upfront fees for harassment and abuse claims, the government is making it easier for employers to get away with the most appalling behaviour."
If a worker has just been sacked following unfair treatment, bullying or harassment at work, they are unlikely to have the upfront fee to lodge a claim, plus the further charge if the hearing takes place. The reality is that gaining new employment is hard enough without the risk of being blacklisted for raising a complaint, and bearing the emotional burden of putting a claim together. Add a potential financial burden to that, people are not going to risk losing a tribunal that they already can't afford the solicitor's fees for. A Parliamentary briefing document
(pdf) states that those with no or low income can have their fees waived but how many hoops must a worker jump through?
The briefing paper notably sets out the sole aims of the review that resulted in the decision to bring fees in:
The Employment Law Review aims to:
Improve growth through increased labour market flexibility
Reduce burdens on business
Give employers the confidence to take more people on.
The UK Government appear to be taking the same stance here as they have done with disability benefits - point at supposed fraudsters regardless of the cost to the people the system is supposedly there to serve. Or rather, the briefing makes it clear who the system is in fact there to serve:
"The business community have consistently told Government that their biggest concern in relation to taking on staff is the employment tribunal system... "
The briefing also states:
The volume of claims brought in employment tribunals has increased steadily in recent years. The current caseload is high - and shows no sign of dissipating to any significant extent.
Why not explore why tribunal cases are rising, instead of artificially seeking to reduce them by setting up additional barriers?
It arguably may or may not have an impact on the "weak cases" which should be sifted out before cases are put to a hearing anyway. It will have an impact on those who have experienced harassment and discrimination and are frightened enough about the idea of going to Tribunal.