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Trials Tribulations & Travesty

by Published on

Well they do say there are lies damn lies and statistics but despite this we all know how the politicians love to bounce figures around to attack or defend an opponent. This week I read a statistical fact that is not a lie but has been caused by political intervention. The Ministry of Justice, potential oxymoron, has published its quarterly figures for employment tribunals in England & Wales covering the period from October to December 2013.

The shocking revelation of this data is that there has been an 80% drop in this period when compared to the average figure from the previous 4 quarters. Only 9,800 employment related cases were issued in the Tribunal across the Country compared to the previous average quarterly figure of 50,000.

Is that bad news? Well, yes and no depending on where you sit. Great news for employers as there are far fewer disgruntled employees or ex employees taking them to court. Are they just happier in their work? Are employers suddenly less antagonistic and now engaging supervisors who are spreading love and harmony.

No I suspect the small matter of the fees introduced in July last year which typically requires a claimant to pay £250 to issue and £950 for a hearing is the true cause. Let’s assume your employer has not paid holiday pay, or overtime or redundancy monies. Your loss is £2,000. Are you going to pay £1,200, with no guarantee you will get anything back, just for someone to hear your complaint.

I’m not one for promoting a culture of “where there’s blame there’s a claim”, but I am very concerned that many individuals who have genuine grievances are bottling up their frustrations and quietly either moving on or waiting for an opportunity to leave having been mismanaged. The previous system certainly taxed employers, but the reality is it kept us alert, not complacent and very much aware of the rights of staff and potential consequences if we got it wrong.

By introducing these fees the average member of staff will simply keep the money in their pocket and suck up whatever injustice they feel has been imparted.

Previous figures show us that many claims settle before a hearing and those that do make it to the tribunal see a 50% success for the claimant. A 40,000 drop in claims equates to the new system limiting access to justice to at least 20,000 employees in the last quarter, with a genuine claim surely this cannot be right?

For the country that invented Magna Carta and told the world that all citizens are entitled equally to justice before the Courts, it’s is a pretty sad state of affairs. It undermines the rule of law, and that is bad for all of us.

Robert Gibson follow us on twitter @Samplaw.

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