Anger At New Employment Tribunal Fees

Anger At New Employment Tribunal Fees

Unions have attacked the Government as controversial new fees for workers filing an employment tribunal case are introduced.

Union bosses and employment lawyers have predicted forcing employees to pay up to £1,200 to make a claim for unfair dismissal and discrimination will spark "chaos".

Unite has vowed to pay the legal fees of its members, while the GMB staged a protest against " target="_blank">the new rules outside an employment tribunal in central London.

From today, workers will be charged one fee to bring a claim, another fee if it is heard and a further charge if they want to appeal the decision.

Smaller claims such as unpaid wages will cost £160 to lodge and another £230 if they proceed. Larger ones like unfair dismissal will cost an initial £250 and then another £950.

The CBI and Federation of Small Businesses welcomed the fees, arguing they would help reduce speculative or weak claims.

And the Government insisted it was right to take some of the £74m cost of workplace disputes away from the taxpayer.

But Unite chief Len McCluskey claimed the "work-bashing Government" had engineered "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," he said.

"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."

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "By charging up-front fees for harassment and abuse claims, the Government is making it easier for employers to get away with the most appalling behaviour.

"These reforms are part of a wider campaign to get rid of workers' basic rights at work. Its only achievement will be to price vulnerable people out of justice."

Lawyers suggested bosses would be less likely to obey their legal duties because there will be less risk of a challenge by staff.

Elizabeth George from Leigh Day said: "This sends a very dangerous message to employers", adding it would penalise pregnant women, the sick, disabled and elderly.

Justice Minister Helen Grant said: "It's important that we try to reduce the financial burden on the taxpayer. It costs £74m per annum to run the employment tribunal system and we genuinely feel that users who can afford to contribute should do so."

She added: "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."

Unison has been granted permission by the High Court to seek a judicial review over the new fees and a hearing will be held in October.