London protests planned over new employment tribunal fees
10:06 29 July 2013
Trades unionists will stage a protest outside an employment tribunal in central London today demonstrating against new fees which put up “insurmountable financial hurdles for working people in pursuit of justice”.
Employment lawyers and unions have predicted “chaos” as employees will have to pay up to £1,200 to have cases of unfair dismissal and discrimination heard at employment tribunals.
Unite said it will pay legal fees for its members while the GMB will stage a protest outside an employment tribunal in the capital.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “What we are seeing today is injustice writ large as this worker-bashing Government takes a sledgehammer to workers’ rights - this is a throwback to Victorian times.
“Seeking redress for unfair dismissal and discrimination and other injustices in the workplace is a fundamental human right - but now ministers are putting up insurmountable financial hurdles for working people in pursuit of justice.
“We estimate that this will affect 150,000 workers a year. This is not an aid to economic recovery but a means to keep working people frightened and insecure.”
Andy Prendergast, of the GMB, said: “The imposition of such fees represents the latest in a number of attacks on employment rights by the Government.
“Bad employers are being given the green light to continue exploiting their staff.”
Elizabeth George, a barrister in the employment team at law firm Leigh Day, said: “This sends a very dangerous message to employers who will be less inclined to abide by their legal obligations as the risk of being challenged will be much reduced.
“These fees will disproportionately hit those suffering discrimination because of their age, race, disability and gender, with women returning from maternity leave particularly hard hit as they’ll be judged on their salary when they left rather than their statutory maternity pay.”
Justice minister Helen Grant admitted that tribunal fees could be “looked at again” if they proved unjust or unfair.
But she said she was confident that introducing fees was the correct course of action as those on lower pay or on benefits would not have to pay fees and judges for the first time had the power to order the losers of a case to pay all legal fees.
She told the BBC Today programme: “It’s important to remember too that these are new fees we have committed that we will monitor the impact very, very carefully on women and other individuals with protected characteristics to ensure that justice and fairness is done.
“And if it is not done of course we will look at it again.”
She went on: “We know that drawn out disputes are emotionally damaging to workers, they are financially damaging to business, and I feel as a government we need to be doing everything we possibly can to encourage quick, cheap, simple alternatives like mediation.”