Employment Tribunal Receipts: Rights without remedies
Employment Tribunal claims are down again by nearly 75% for the quarter ending September 2014. This may be a shocking figure but it is not new. The trend that started with the introduction of employment tribunal fees in July 2013 has continued in the same vein – there is no blip; it is a constant. And there is no reason to think it will change.
The risk – of course – is that employers will become increasingly complacent about obeying employment laws when previously they would have done so for fear of ending up in a tribunal. What is there to lose by refusing to settle until the claim has been lodged when the chances of a claim are so low?
Most sensible people agree that it is best for employers and employees to settle their differences outside the tribunal; this is the aim of the ACAS Early Conciliation and of YESS. But, does the carrot work without the stick (however well disguised)?
The other problem is that ACAS do not provide legal advice to either party. Where can an employee find out what claims they have, if any, and how much they are worth?
Don’t advice centres give free advice? Unfortunately organisations giving free employment advice and representation are in steep decline due to the cuts. And as the Legal Voice conference on 8 December showed, increasingly they are charging.
At Your Employment Settlement Service, a charity which advises employees and employers how to resolve employment disputes without litigating, we have charged from the beginning. Options include an hourly rate, a fixed fee and sometimes a ‘no win no fee’. The charge is based on affordability and there is an element of cross-subsidy, so fees are reduced for those on low incomes. We had no option as we were advised that it was pointless trying to get a grant with so many existing grants are being slashed. Other agencies are doing the same.
The government promises a review but there is no indication from any party that fees will be changed. We are still waiting for the result of the Unison challenge but few are holding their breath.
What are we left with? We already have an increasingly insecure labour market with zero hours contracts, pay freezes and huge inequalities. What use are employment rights without remedies?
Camilla Palmer 12.12.14