Many of the UK's lowest paid workers will be unable to enforce their workplace rights if proposals for employment tribunal fees go ahead, says the Trades Union Commission.
Many of the UK's lowest paid workers will be unable to afford to enforce their workplace rights if the government's proposals for fees for employment tribunals go ahead, says the Trades Union Commission (TUC).
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 will still be required to pay expensive fees to take a case to an employment tribunal.
New research commissioned by the organisation reveals that most single people paid the minimum wage will not have to pay to go to a tribunal. However a significant proportion of those earning £6.08 an hour, who are part of a couple, will be required to pay up to £345 or more to enforce basic workplace rights.
This is because the test for the ability to pay will be based on household income rather than an individual's earnings, and 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 either £200 or £400 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.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber says that all working people should have fair access to justice regardless of what they earn or their partner earns.
He adds, 'Introducing fees for tribunals will deter many people from taking valid claims to court and will undermine the enforcement of workplace rights. Workers will be more likely to be mistreated at work as rogue bosses will be able to flout the law without fear of sanction.
'The government's remission scheme to protect the lowest paid workers is woefully inadequate and many of the UK's most vulnerable workers will simply be priced out of justice.'
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