Paying for justice

by Kevin Glass on

The coalition was dealt a blow in January 2011 when it was announced that over the past three months the economy had shrunk by around 0.5%.
This revelation has led the government to propose wide reforms to the Employment Tribunal and employment law. Prime Minister, David Cameron, and Business Secretary, Vince Cable, have discussed changes that could restrict employees’ access to justice.
Mr Cameron and Mr Cable have stated that litigation through the Employment Tribunals is causing a serious impact on business and that reforms to employment law need to be made to “make sure that employees and employers are treated fairly”.
The proposals include increasing the qualifying period within which a claim for unfair dismissal may be brought from one year to two years and introducing compulsory mediation through ACAS. Perhaps the most alarming of the proposed reforms, for employees, is the introduction of a fee that must be paid in order for a claim to be in the Employment Tribunal. It has been suggested in the press that such a fee could be up to £500.
Britain has been gripped by one of the worst recessions in living memory over the past two years. The recession and the attempts to cut the country’s deficit has led to austerity cuts resulting in job losses and pay freezes and when coupled with the rising cost of living the result is that the average worker in Britain has a lot less money in their pockets.
By introducing a fee, of up to £500, to bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal many individuals with legitimate grievances and claims may be unable to make a claim for financial reasons.
Mr Cameron when discussing the proposed reforms stated:
“Today’s announcements on reforms to employment law are among the first conclusions of our government wide growth review, and highlight our determination to ensure that employment is no longer seen as a barrier to growth, while making sure that employees and employers are treated fairly”.
Questions have already been raised by Union leaders and no doubt will be raised by employees as to whether the proposed reforms are fair. If the reforms are pushed through into law it would appear that the balance of power in employment law would shift in favour of the employer.

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