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Don’t go chasing unicorns…..

Yesterday Camilla Palmer and was accused of chasing unicorns in La La land when she called for an abolition to Employment Tribunal fees because it is damaging people’s access to justice. Given that the TUC are also calling for the abolition of fees presumably they are also engaging in similar flights of fancy. Is it fair to compare a statement calling for the reinstatement of the status quo that existed until barely one year ago to living in La La Land? As someone who has two small girls I am well versed in the dangers of chasing unicorns but at the risk of taking this analogy too far I would have thought that it is better to start by fighting the dragonly fees head on than capitulating to a watered down version from the start. You risk ending up not making it across the moat if you haven’t got the courage of your convictions and aren’t willing to at least start the charge at full tilt.

The figures showing the impact on claims speak for themselves and show that there has been a significant impact on people’s ability to access the Tribunal system. What differentiates the Tribunal system from other courts is that it was set up to enable people easy access to justice without the complexity of the other civil courts and indeed the costs risk. That is being eroded and we, as practitioners who care deeply about people having access to justice, should stand up to that erosion. Once you agree that if it costs too much some erosion of those rights is a good starting point, then you are allowing the other side to win from the outset. You are simply talking about to what extent you will lose. How much of an erosion of rights is acceptable is not a good starting point. The starting point in any negotiations should be from your preferred outcome, supported by well-reasoned argument and facts.

Should people never move from their starting point? No. However if you do not start the fight from a position of conviction and belief, then any attempt to persuade your opponent that they should concede will be doomed to failure.

As for holding your breath for the outcome of UNISON’s JR or indeed for any political party to commit to any meaningful reorganisation of the Tribunal system that will actually improve access to justice – I believe (though I would rather not and I hope that I am wrong) that we will be holding it for so long that we will be seeing unicorns in La La land due to lack of oxygen.

Emma Webster, Solicitor, YESS

Life's too short to litigate