Last week, I met a highly respected employment lawyer for coffee. He knew me in a secretarial capacity before he realised I wrote Bullied by the Boss and, as I’ve retrained now, it’s nice to catch up on employment law changes amongst other things. I learned most of what I know from him anyway.
When he asked me if I was still writing my blog, I said I hadn’t posted anything for a while. I told him it got too depressing. Since Vince Cable has taken employment rights back to the 1970s and Tribunal reforms have made justice virtually inaccessible, my blogs seemed futile.
I had quite lost hope.
‘You should write again,’ he said, explaining that things had now become so awful, they had to change. I took a sip of Camomile tea and listened to him recap on the government’s employment reforms.
He reminded me how Tribunal fees were introduced in the summer of 2013, resulting in employees having to pay up to £1,200 to run their claim to the Employment Tribunal. This, of course, is after they have lost their jobs in many cases. The government argued that such a fee would deter around 25 per cent of employees (the spuriously minded types, they hoped) from going to the E.T. It was a serious miscalculation. The drop in employees attempting to go to Tribunal turned out to be a lot bigger: 80 per cent.
Unison appealed to the High Court to get the fees removed, saying they were a barrier to accessing justice and, further, that the fees have a disproportionate impact on women. This was last February. While the High Court said they would not intervene, the reason they gave was that it was too soon. They all needed more time to study the drop in claims, they said.
My employment lawyer friend updated me on the last few months. Employment Judges are twiddling their thumbs as the lists of upcoming cases get smaller. Some Judges have gone weeks without a case to preside over. In some areas of the UK, sexual discrimination claims have fallen by 86% and Equality Act claims have fallen by 88%.
That it cannot be allowed to continue is a given. The statistics are so shocking that the High Court will have to intervene. You cannot have a country where only 12% of Equality Act claims get a chance to be heard. My lawyer friend was positive and upbeat.
It’s a tragedy for anyone trying to claim in the meantime, but at least people are fighting for further reform. It inspired me to blog again. Things have become so bad, it’s actually a good thing? Sadly, I think that’s this government’s modus operandi; introduce the harshest, most punishing changes and see what happens.
I'd stake my Tribunal fees on the fact that people will start fighting back.