Employment grievances rise while tribunals go down

Tribunal costs “putting off” valid claims.

The number of people taking their boss to an employment tribunal over unfair dismissal has fallen by over two-thirds (70 per cent) across the Midlands over the last year, according to new analysis published by the TUC.

These figures come at a time when it is claimed that the number of people seeking advice about unfair dismissal and employment protection are on the increase.

The analysis, which has been published to mark the first anniversary of the introduction of tribunal fees, shows the Midlands has experienced the sharpest drop in cases of any region in the UK since fees were introduced in July 2013.

Just 561 workers in the Midlands took their employer to a tribunal over unfair dismissal between January and March 2014, compared to 1,881 over the same period in 2013.

On July 29th last year the Government introduced fees of up to £1,200 to access the Employment Tribunal. In the six months from October 2013 to March 2014 there was a 73% drop nationally in claims on the same period the previous year.

Midlands TUC Regional Secretary Rob Johnston said: “The huge drop in cases taken doesn’t mean that bosses in the Midlands have got a whole lot nicer in the past year. It’s simply because pursuing a complaint against a bad employer has become too expensive for many workers, and that is just plain wrong.

“In the past there were no fees, workers who felt they’d been wronged could have their case heard, and the tribunal would either find for them or in their employer’s favour. But last summer, the government decided to restrict justice to those who could afford to pay a fee. The introduction of tribunal fees is part of a wider government campaign to get rid of workers’ basic rights.”

Their claims were born out by research carried out by Citizen’s Advice. Visitors to the organisation’s website in need of help with employment was reported to be up 42% on last year, while tribunal searches are up 54%.

The service found that in a study of 182 cases they dealt with in June and July of this year, four out of every five were judged to have a greater than 50% chance of success if taken to tribunal. However, in just over half the cases cost was a deterrent to taking the matter further.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said “Employers are getting away with unlawful sackings and withholding wages. People with strong employment claims are immediately defeated by high costs and fees.

“The risk of not being paid, even if successful, means for many the Employment Tribunal is just not an option. The cost of a case can sometimes be more than the award achieved and people can’t afford to fight on principle anymore. Citizens Advice wants to see a fair and robust review of the Employment Tribunal system to make it work for all people and employment abuses eradicated.”