Blocking fairness in the workplace – David Renton on the threat to Employment Tribunals

David Renton

In an interview with Union News, David Renton, author of Struck Out: Why Employment Tribunals Fail Workers and What Can be Done, warns that more industrial action could be on the way if the government presses ahead with its plans to limit workers access to Employment Tribunals:

A new book by a leading employment barrister calls for debate in the trade union movement about the role of employment tribunals as government changes are expected to make it even tougher for workers to win cases.

David Renton, from Garden Court Chambers, predicts increased industrial action as an already flawed system provides even fewer workers with a place to settle grievances.

Using testimony and official documents the book gives a succinct history of the tribunal system and its current operation. Renton explains its key decisions and punctures the myths around it. In it, and on the accompanying blog, he also charts the impact government changes will have.

“It will be nice to think that workers will think ‘we are still suffering injustice but we can’t initiate claims so we will do what we say in the book; we will go back and strengthen our unions and where appropriate we will take industrial action’, which I very much see as an alternative to the tribunals. But you also need to be realistic. The government’s calculation is that the unions are weakened and so people aren’t going to properly resist these reforms.”

Visit Union News to read the interview in full.

In an article for the New Law Journal Renton details the impact the government reforms will have on workers access to Employment Tribunals:

This month we witnessed the first steps in the coalition’s plans for the reform of the tribunal system. New employees taken on after 6 April 2012 only qualify for protection against unfair dismissal after being continuously employed for two years (up from the previous one year). Simple unfair dismissal claims will be reserved to one employment judge rather than the present tribunal with two lay panel members. The maximum costs that may be ordered by a tribunal will rise from £10,000 to £20,000. Due to follow, over succeeding months, are a watering down of employers’ obligations on transfers of employment and in redundancy situations.

The government’s most dramatic change to the tribunal system will be the introduction of issuing and hearing fees for claimants, ie workers, but not for respondents, ie companies. The proposed fees for an unlawful deduction of wages claim will be of the order of £400, rising to £1,500 for a discrimination claim.

The ground for these “reforms” has been prepared by a press campaign to the effect that most employment tribunal claims are dubious, weak or vexatious, that the average cost to an employer of defending a tribunal claim is £125,000 per claim (British Chambers of Commerce (BCC)), and that seen as a whole the tribunal system is as bleak as “Dante’s vision of the inferno” (the Financial Times).

But the majority of tribunal claims that make it to a contested hearing succeed (roughly 60% in 2010–11). Meanwhile, a careful check of the BCC document in which the figure of £125,000 per claim appeared shows that it was the guess of a single personnel manager. The median awards for unfair dismissal and discrimination claims are a rather more miserly £4,500 and £7,000 respectively.

Visit the New Law Journal to read the article in full.

Struck Out

Why Employment Tribunals Fail Workers and What Can be Done

David Renton

Shows why we can’t rely on the employment tribunal system to deliver fairness and highlights the changes required to protect workers’ rights.

“How can employers and the government argue that employment rights are a burden on business at the same time as so many workplace injustices go unremedied? In the context of a debate over employment law reform that is in danger of being overwhelmed by rhetoric and misinformation, this book will be essential reading for its empirically grounded and dispassionate analysis of what has gone wrong and how it might be put right.” – Simon Deakin, Professor of Law at the University of Cambridge

“‘Employment law in this country isn’t written for working people’ – I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard that at union meetings. But when you’re the person victimised at work, then we all hope Employment Tribunals will deliver us justice. With this excellent step-by-step explanation of how the system works in reality, David Renton explains why it so rarely does. Blacklisted workers have experienced the process first-hand and know this book is true.” – Dave Smith, Blacklist Support Group

£19.99 only £17.50 on the Pluto site

2 Responses to Blocking fairness in the workplace – David Renton on the threat to Employment Tribunals

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