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Unions, lawyers and rights groups slam ministers’ decision to reintroduce tribunal fees

UNIONS, lawyers and rights groups have condemned a renewed government attack on workers’ rights through the reintroduction of employment tribunal fees.

Workers will have to pay to make claims such as unfair dismissal and discrimination at the hands of unscrupulous employers.

Nearly 50 organisations including the TUC, Citizens Advice, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Fawcett Society, Maternity Action, Women’s Budget Group and Liberty have called on the government to think again.

The groups opposing the fees said in a joint statement: “Workers seeking recovery of wage theft, unpaid redundancy pay and compensation for unfair dismissal are to be asked to stump up extra money at an incredibly tough moment in their lives.

“Access to justice must never be contingent on your ability to pay.”

TUC general secretary Paul Nowak said: “All working people should be able to enforce their rights.

“But introducing fees for tribunals puts yet another hurdle in the way of those seeking justice at their most vulnerable moment.”

It is the government’s second attempt to force workers to pay for justice.

In 2017 public-sector union Unison challenged the introduction of fees, winning a Supreme Court ruling that imposing a fee “effectively prevents access to justice and is therefore unlawful.”

Mr Nowak said: “The Conservatives have already tried this and failed. 

“Last time they introduced tribunal fees, claims dropped by two-thirds. And the Supreme Court threw fees out — saying they interfered with access to justice.

“That should have been the nail in the coffin for these cynical plans, but ministers have decided to side with bad bosses over workers and resurrect employment tribunal fees.”

The fees will particularly affect women sacked or victimised at work for becoming pregnant.

Rosalind Bragg, Maternity Action Group director, said: “For pregnant women and new mothers in the cost-of-living crisis, every penny counts.

“We have laws in place to secure equal treatment of pregnant women and new mothers at work but these are ineffective without the robust operation of the employment tribunal. 

“Fees are a step backwards in the fight for gender equality.”

Industrial tribunals — later renamed employment tribunals — were introduced by former prime minister Harold Wilson’s Labour government in 1964.

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