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Have employers been given green light to behave badly?

The number of Employment Tribunal claims being brought by workers has plummeted to an all-time low since the introduction of the fees last summer. By the end of December 2013, the number of claims had fallen by almost 80 per cent.
The fees, which were introduced by the government with the aim of weeding out bogus claims, means that an ex-employee could be faced with a bill up to £1200 before their case even goes in front of a tribunal. Dave Prentis, Unison general secretary, said: “Money should never be a barrier to justice, so it is deeply disturbing that this is exactly what is happening to thousands of workers since the fees were introduced.”
This in itself could be seen as a green light for some employers to behave badly.
Diane Parker, partner at Atherton Godfrey, said: “The fee system means that someone on a low or modest income, who has been unfairly dismissed, can then find themselves facing a huge bill if they plan to take their case for wrongful dismissal to an Employment Tribunal.
“There is help available though. Anyone belonging to a trade union should first check with them to see if they can help with the fees. If this is not an option, the worker may be entitled to apply for a fee remission.
“We would also advise people to check their current household policies as some include help with legal expenses insurance, known as Before the Event (BTE) insurance, but this may not have been drawn to the employee’s attention when the policy was taken out.”
Unison unsuccessfully challenged the introduction of the fees in the High Court but now intends to take the case to the Court of Appeal, claiming that the fees have a particular impact on women.
Anyone wanting to take advantage of free legal advice on employment matters can contact Atherton Godfrey’s Employment Law Team on 01302 320621.

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