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Employment tribunal changes - July 2013

Massive changes to employment tribunals made by the government mean that access to workplace justice could be denied to millions and now comes with a hefty price tag. The changes are designed to stop working people seeking compensation from employers.

The qualifying period to claim unfair dismissal has been doubled to two years – in one stroke depriving millions of workers of any legal protection in the workplace. Prohibitive tribunal fees are to be introduced, with a fee of up to £250 just to register a case, and up to £950 more payable before it gets to a hearing. Appeals will cost up to £1,600. Witnesses’ expenses will no longer be paid.

Unite has always argued that workplace rights should start from day one, but the government has listened to bosses who want to be able to sack workers at will.

This is a cynical hammer blow designed to make it as difficult as possible to lodge a tribunal claim, and a massive attack on people mistreated at work. The door has been opened to judges sitting alone in tribunals, no longer balanced with lay ‘wing’ members. The government wants to banish trade-union panellists and others with industrial experience from sitting with judges, many of whom have no employment experience.

The potential cost of losing a tribunal has been doubled, from £10,000 to £20,000. Another move clearly aimed at discouraging claims being brought, not least as tribunals are increasingly exercising the option to award costs against the losing side. Minister claim these measures will save time and money, but they will load the chances of success even further against tribunal claimants.

Even now only eight per cent of unfair dismissal cases are successful, and the figure is far lower for discrimination cases.

What is an employment tribunal? 

Employment tribunals were introduced in the early 1970s by a Tory government as a way of preventing strikes over unfair dismissals and workplace injustices. Tribunals can award compensation, but cannot force an employer to take back a worker judged unfairly dismissed.

Now after decades of anti-union laws designed to weaken the trade union movement, today’s Tory led government has decided that even this is too good for working people, and has set out to dismantle what little legal protection workers have against rogue bosses.

Unite the union steps in – union to arrange payment of the fee

For Unite these changes mean finding well over £1 million, but the union remains committed to winning justice for its members at work. Despite these massive costs Unite will continue to offer a comprehensive legal service to members. Simply, if the union runs the case, there is no worry about paying the fees.

Claimants will have to submit the initial fee, but if Unite runs the case the union will ensure any member is not out of pocket at any time. Unite will also continue to pay witness expenses.

If a member is successful in getting a settlement, Unite’s legal team will ensure the settlement includes the fees to the union is repaid. If the case is taken to tribunal, Unite will ensure the tribunal awards the fees so Unite is reimbursed.

Now more than ever it makes sense to belong to Unite, the union that stands up for members at work and offers a comprehensive legal service. So if you are not already a member, then join Unite today, and get protected by Unite’s expert legal team.

Note: The above benefits are subject to terms/conditions, membership qualification and acceptance of cases by the union and its solicitors.

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