29 July 2013
Employment tribunal fees irk unions
Unions across the UK have blasted proposed changes that will see a fixed rate fee for anyone wishing to launch an employment tribunal against their bosses.
Protests will be held around the country later this week to highlight widespread disgust towards the plan from the left wing of the political landscape.
Fees of up to £1,200 will come into force and this will mean some lesser paid workers are unlikely to be able to launch claims against their employers because of the expenses involved, although it is unclear if the changes will stand against a number of legal appeals planned by critics.
The Trades Union Congress 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.
"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."
However, the justice minister Helen Grant countered these criticisms and said it is not fair the taxpayer has to cover for people needlessly filing complaints that are not warranted.
Ms Grant added it is in everyone's interest to avoid drawn out disputes and that is why these fees have been put in place, as they will encourage cheaper, mediated alternatives to take place.
Len McCluskey, the leader of the Unite union, which is the largest in the UK, said the changes will affect 150,000 every year and argued it will frighten lower paid workers who will now feel they cannot raise problems they may be having with management.
Some analysts have questioned whether the charges breach European laws that force national governments to provide citizens with legal aid.
It is thought that the cuts in funding may be a direct result of austerity measures placed on the Department of Justice by the coalition government.
By Chris Stevenson