Unfair and unjust – David Renton on government Employment Tribunal reforms

Dave Smith, a construction worker illegally blacklisted by his employer for union activity, outside his Employment Tribunal.

Writing in the Morning Star, David Renton, author of Struck Out: Why Employment Tribunals Fail Workers and What Can be Done, highlights the limitations of the current Employment Tribunal system in delivering fairness for workers, and how government reforms will make it even harder for workers to challenge irresponsible employers:

Far from costing employers a fortune, the median awards for dismissal and discrimination claims are just £4,500 and £7,000.

The coalition’s changes take attention away from far deeper problems with the system, which are crying out for genuine reform.

One major problem is that the system invariably compensates suffering with money.

The majority of tribunal claimants are unemployed at the time of their claim, so the most valuable remedy for them, especially in today’s job market, would be reinstatement.

Yet of the 40,000-plus unfair dismissal claims before the tribunal in 2010-11, only eight resulted in orders reinstating or re-engaging the claimant.

David outlines how the government reforms will unfairly strengthen the hand of employers at the expense of workers:

After April 6, new employees will have to work twice as long before they qualify for unfair dismissal rights, as the present one-year period will increase to two years.

– The maximum amount of costs a tribunal may ordered will rise from £10,000 to £20,000. The possibility of incurring legal costs already deters workers from pressing claims because their pockets are invariably shallower than their employers’ and they are less likely to appoint City solicitors firms charging fees of several hundred pounds an hour.

– From October, we are likely to see small companies being able to make “no-fault dismissals” – ie redundancies – but with second-class compensation.

– Also expected this autumn will be the introduction of issuing and hearing fees. Only claimants (workers) will have to pay these fees. Respondents (companies) are exempt. The proposed fees for a wages claim would be of the order of £400, rising to £1,500-plus for a discrimination claim.

– The coalition proposes that where a worker agrees in advance to limit their claim to a maximum of £30,000 they should pay lower tribunal fees. The presumed rationale is that workers will voluntarily peg themselves to a maximum compensation figure far below their actual loss.

Visit the Morning Star to read the article in full.

Visit David’s excellent Struck Out blog for further updates and analysis on changes to employment law.

David will be launching the book at Garden Court Chambers in London on the 24th April at 6.30pm. Visit Struck Out for more information and a full list of events. He will also be speaking at Bookmarks bookshop at 7pm on the 15th May. Visit Bookmarks to reserve your free place.

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

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