Sacked North East workers being 'priced out of justice', claim unions

The TUC says unfair dismissal claims lodged by North East workers have plummeted 64% since tribunal fees were introduced last July

Iain Buist Beth Farhat, regional secretary at the Northern TUC
Beth Farhat, regional secretary at the Northern TUC

Sacked workers in the North East are being “priced out of justice”, unions have claimed.

It follows a survey by the TUC which revealed the number of unfair dismissal claims made in the region has plummeted by 64% since tribunal fees were introduced last July.

According to the unions, 477 North East workers in dispute over their sacking took their boss to a tribunal between January and March this year, compared to 1,317 over the same period in 2013.

The TUC says the fall shows that many people now can’t afford the hearings, with low-paid workers in the region particularly affected.

Under the new system, workers face having to pay up to £1,200 to take an unfair dismissal claim to tribunal, including minimum wage workers if a member of their household has savings of £3,000.

The Government has set up a remission scheme for low-paid employees but the union organisation says official figures show that only in four UK workers who applied for financial assistance to take an employment tribunal have been given any form of help.

TUC Northern Regional Secretary Beth Farhat said: “The huge drop in cases taken doesn’t mean that bosses in the North East 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.”

The reduction in cases in the North East was broadly in line with the national average, where the number of cases fell by 62%.

Liz Mayes, assistant director of the employers organisation CBI in the North East, said: “Tackling the broken tribunal system is a priority for business – small and big alike.

“Firms have been frustrated for years by both delays in the system, and false and misleading claims taking up time and resources. Early conciliation via ACAS and the introduction of fees should help tackle this – but we still need to reform the system itself.

“It is too early to assess the full impact of the introduction of fees - but it is essential that fees and the threshold for remissions are set at the right level so access to justice is maintained.”


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