Monday, 29 July 2013

Pay up or shut up

Lots has been written about the Government introducing fees for tribunal claims to be made. I can't rephrase the arrangements or beat the likes of Darren Newman's excellent summary blog here but I can offer a thought or two on the situation.

As someone who has seen employers taken to tribunals and change their practices for the better as a result, I fear the introduction of fees will prevent genuinely aggrieved and unfairly treated employees seeking justice. This in turn will stop companies making the essential improvements needed to retain their staff and get the best from them. I don't see how this stimulates engagement, growth or creates a single job.

I don't think for a second that employers will benefit from this. Employees who have been genuinely unfairly treated will resort to other measures to seek recourse including ensuring everyone they meet knows what a bunch of utter b******s their former employers are. The reputational damage could be huge. They may lose other staff who they've trained and invested in as a result. Some employees who have sought to bring  claims only to fail to raise the cash will feel stumped and may take steps they'd normally never consider to feel justice has been done. 

Employees with what might be considered vexatious claims won't necessarily be 'weeded out'- as in the case of genuine claims, if they have the cash, they get to bring the case.

One thing that does worry me enormously is that employees with a genuine problem and who are unable to pay the fees will suffer in silence; gay or ethnic minority employees who have been singled out for poor treatment, men or women who have been harassed or threatened (and heaven know Twitter's had a hell of a weekend on that front) and anyone else who's been mismanaged, abused or mistreated face a stark choice- pay up or shut up.

I can't predict exactly what's going to happen, but I can guess. What I do know is that since 1971 employees who have experienced discrimination, harassment and abuse and employers who have had to face down false claims or learn the lessons when they have got it wrong have had the reassurance of a fair, free tribunal system- and that has now been taken from them. 

I honestly don't see how this can possibly have a positive outcome for individuals or businesses.

UPDATE: It appears the Unions are also very concerned, with UNISON being granted a judicial review hearing into the issue of fees to be heard in October.