Following the introduction of fees in employment tribunals earlier this year, the TUC says that new restrictions in the fees remissions scheme, effective this week, will have an impact on low-paid savers.
As a result, individuals (or their partners) with savings or investments of £3,000 or more will have to pay the full fee, whether or not they are out of work or on low incomes.
The fees scheme, which came into effect on 29 July this year, requires tribunal claimants and Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) appellants to pay a fee or submit an application for remission of the fee. The theory of the scheme, according to the government, was to ensure that low-income individuals would not have to pay fees of up to £1,200 to make a claim.
However, research commissioned by the TUC shows that just one in 20 workers over the age of 50 are now likely to be fully exempt from paying the full fee when lodging a complaint against their employer at a tribunal. With fewer than one in four workers over that age likely to get any kind of financial support, people sacked because of their age may end up paying fees of £1,200.
The TUC’s analysis of the Family Resources Survey - published by the Office for National Statistics - also showed that even among households where someone is on the minimum wage, fewer than one in four workers will receive any support and will have to pay the full fee of £1,200.
The number of disabled workers exempt from tribunal fees is also likely to halve, says the TUC, with just one in nine likely to be exempt.
Iain Birrell, employment rights expert at Thompsons Solicitors, commented “the government sugared the pill of fees with reassurances about remissions for the vulnerable. By dramatically narrowing the scope of the remissions scheme which they consulted upon they repeat the sleight of hand trick that saw them shelve the employment tribunal’s power to impose employer penalties.”
TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady said: “The remissions scheme was set up to help people on low incomes avoid paying fees. But the changes ... could mean thousands of older workers having to raid their retirement savings if they want to seek justice against an employer that has mistreated them.
“The changes ... make it easier for rogue bosses to get away with mistreating staff, not paying them properly and dodging the minimum wage. This is not the kind of labour market hardworking people want to see.”
To read Thompsons’ response to the consultation on the introduction of fees, go to: http://www.thompsonstradeunionlaw.co.uk/information-and-resources/pdf/moj-charging-fees-in-tribunals.pdf