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Exploited workers 'not getting access to justice'

The introduction of fees for Employment Tribunals has stopped thousands of Scots from challenging rogue employers – according to new evidence from Citizens Advice Scotland.

Before 2013, people who wanted to take their employer to a tribunal could do so for free, and for decades many thousands of workers have used this vital tool to get redress for exploitation, harassment or mis-treatment at work. Two years ago however, the UK government introduced a fee for such tribunals – a fee that can reach up to £1,200. 

Over the last two years the Scottish CAB service has been monitoring the damaging impact of this change, and today we publish our evidence in a joint report with Strathclyde University, ‘The Price of Justice.’ The report can be accessed by following the link at the bottom of this page. Its findings include the following:

  • Fees are deterring CAB clients from fighting for their rights. In one quarter (Jan-April 2014) the number of tribunal cases lodged fell by 81% compared to the same period the previous year.
  • The merit of a person’s grievance is no longer the key driver in whether they take it to a tribunal. The decision has become a financial one.
  • The fees have altered the balance of power between workers and employers. Rogue bosses now know they are more likely to ‘get away with it’. 

Publishing the report today, CAS spokesperson Lauren Wood says:

“A few weeks ago we published CAB evidence showing that the number of Scots being exploited at work was increasing.*  Today we publish a new report which shows how such workers are being prevented from getting the justice and compensation they are entitled to.

“It’s two years since the government introduced a fee for Employment Tribunals. At that time we joined with many other organisations in expressing our concerns about the impact this would have on people seeking to challenge rogue employers. Two years on we now have the experience of real cases, and sadly we were right to have those concerns. The evidence shows that people have been deterred from taking their grievances to tribunal because they simply can’t afford to pay the fee.

“Let’s be clear what we are talking about here. Employment Tribunals regularly include cases where people have been un-paid or under-paid for work they have done, or cases where they have been mistreated – including bullying, racism, sexual harassment.  People who have suffered such treatment surely have a right to justice, and that right should not be based on their ability to pay.

“Employment Tribunals are not only vital for the individuals involved. They also help root out rogue employers, so that other workers don’t have to suffer under them. One of the most worrying aspects of this current situation is that it has altered the balance of power at work, with rogue employers now feeling they can exploit or mistreat their employees without risk of being called to account.

“In highlighting this issue today we call on the government – and all political parties - to think again about the price of justice, and to get rid of these fees.  Justice should be available to everyone, not just the wealthy.” 

For further information, or to arrange interviews etc., please contact Tony Hutson on 07774 751655.

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