A committee of MPs will debate this afternoon whether to allow tribunal fees to become law from this July. The TUC has warned that if the fees go ahead many of the UK’s lowest paid workers will be priced out of justice.
While the government’s plans for tribunals include a ‘remission scheme’ which will make some of the lowest paid exempt from the proposed costs, the TUC believes that a substantial proportion of workers who are on the minimum wage (NMW) will still be required to pay fees of up to £345 to take a case to an employment tribunal.
This is because the test for the ability to pay will be based on household income rather than an individual’s earnings. This assumes that all household income is shared equally between a couple. The TUC does not agree that a woman’s capacity to enforce her individual rights should depend on her partner’s consent.
Fees proposed for tribunals have also been set disproportionately high in order to deter many people from taking valid claims to tribunal, says the TUC. For example, an individual seeking to recover unpaid wages or holiday pay from their employer will be required to pay upfront fees of up to £390 for their case to be decided.
Individuals seeking to challenge discrimination at work will be required to pay up to £1,200 for their case to be decided.
This means that some individuals will be required to pay upfront fees which are higher than the value of their claim, says the TUC.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘Introducing tribunal fees will serve only to embolden rogue employers, who will be able to mistreat staff without fear of sanction.
‘Regardless of what ministers say this is not about cutting red tape for businesses. It is yet another attack on workers’ employment rights and will result in victims being deterred from making genuine claims.
‘Erecting punitive financial barriers is not our idea of fairness. The government’s remission scheme to protect the lowest paid is woefully inadequate and many of the UK’s most vulnerable workers will simply be priced out of justice.’