Monday, 3 April 2017

Is access to justice really out of reach for most employees?

The Guardian’s article “Access to justice is no longer a worker’s right but a luxury” provides an illustration of the difficulties faced by one individual who faced discrimination at work.

On the face of it the lady concerned did not appear to be very well off but she was unable to obtain help with employment tribunal fees and in the event relied on her trade union together with crowd-funding to cover her legal costs and the tribunal fees.  Her case was settled and she was spared attending a hearing. 

We have blogged about the introduction of employment tribunal fees from time to time and this story serves as a reminder of the need for legal protection for individuals. BTE is more valuable than ever since the introduction of fees.

Following its review of employment tribunal fees the Government has confirmed that they have no intention of reducing the level of fees payable (£1200 for most claims that result in a hearing).

The story, however, does not paint the full picture.  It gives the impression that employment tribunal cases are scarce as fees deter individuals from pursuing their rights. While it’s true that claims against businesses have dropped since the introduction of fees the latest quarterly statistics – Q4 2016, show a 3% increase in the number of single tribunal applications received over the same quarter in 2015.

More importantly around 92,000 notifications of disputes were received by ACAS’s early resolution service in the year to March 2016.  The early conciliation service is free to both employers and employees and ARAG provides legal representation throughout the process for our commercial and family policyholders.  Parties are successful in arriving at an agreement through ACAS Early Conciliation in around one-third of cases and can avoid their claim escalating to tribunal.

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