Thompsons Solicitors warn legal reforms will deter employees seeking justice
Workers defending their jobs might have to pay for their own witnesses to attend employment tribunals, under law reforms bought in earlier this month.
Trade union lawyers Thompsons fear the reforms will deter workers pursuing ET claims because, previously, all costs were met from public funds.
Iain Birrell from Thompsons said: “This will hit claimants far harder than their employers because the risk that you may have to pay the travel, and even loss of earnings expenses for, say, five witnesses over a five-day hearing could be enough to stop you pursuing your legitimate claim, or make you decide to accept an unreasonable settlement offer from your current or former employer.
“In some parts of the country, tribunals serve very large areas and sometimes hearings are switched to different cities. Travelling times and costs over several days can be significant.
“Several witnesses may be called to support a claim. A claimant whose case doesn’t have the backing of a union and who may well be out of work and almost certainly won’t have reserve funds may simply decide the risk of such costs are too much.
“This is particularly likely should the government press ahead with its proposal to introduce fees for ETs. What claimant could afford an upfront fee of up to £250 to lodge a claim, a further fee of up to £1,250 should the claim go to a hearing and then their witness expenses on top of that, whether they win or lose?
“These are cynical measures intended to deny access to justice to vulnerable working people.”
Iain Birrell has written a feature for UnionNews about the reforms, and how the change to unfair dismissal laws is a green light to sack employees in the second year of their employment
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