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Employment tribunal costs ‘putting people off’ valid claims

Bolton Citizens Advice Bureau raises concerns that employers are getting away with not paying wages or holiday pay.

New national research from Citizens Advice shows 7 in 10 potentially successful cases are not pursued by people at Employment Tribunals. Only 14% with valid claims are definitely being taken forward.

Bolton CAB has seen a rise in people employment issues.  Since April, we have advised 267 on employment issues.

“The changes introduced by the government have given more support to employers who can often afford representation whilst leaving employees without representation and with fees to pay – how is this fair?”
Richard Wilkinson - Chief Officer at Bolton CAB

On July 29th last year the Government introduced fees of up to £1,200 to access the Employment Tribunal. In the six months from October 2013 to March 2014 there was a 73% drop in claims on the same period the previous year.

Millions are logging onto Citizens Advice’s website in need of help with employment up 42% on last year and tribunal searches up 54%.  

The new findings are from an analysis, carried out by Citizens Advice advisors from across the country, of 182 employment cases brought to bureaux between June and July this year. The advisors assessed the strength of the claim and how likely it would be pursued.

  • 4 in 5 of cases had a 50/50 chance or higher of success if they were pursued to tribunal:
  • Just 31% of the potential success cases are likely or definite to proceed to tribunal
  • In over half the cases, fees or costs are deterring people
  • Under a quarter of claims worth £1000 or less are likely to be, or are definitely being taken forward
  • A fifth contained discrimination as a basis for claim

Unfair dismissal and withholding wages was the most common issue along with holiday pay.

The complexity of the process, stresses involved and fear of losing jobs also dissuaded people.

Richard Wilkinson - Chief Officer at Bolton Citizens Advice Bureau said: 

“People who have legitimate claims must be able to make their voices heard at Employment Tribunals.

“Here in Bolton we see people visiting the Citizens Advice Bureau after employers have failed to pay their wages or dismissed them without good reason.

“The Employment Tribunal system must work for all in Bolton and be respected by all parties.  Fees should not be a barrier between justice and bad employment practices.

“It is because of the huge changes to the Legal Aid budget making people ‘out of scope’ for support.  People often cannot afford the fees associated with legal representation, in actual fact, it scares a lot of people thus deterring them from taking a case forward.

“Before the changes to Legal Aid, we dealt with 300 – 400 cases a year on employment alone, we cannot do this anymore because of the chances to Legal Aid.

“The changes introduced by the government have given more support to employers who can often afford representation whilst leaving employees without representation and with fees to pay – how is this fair?”

Gillian Guy - Chief Executive of Citizens Advice said:

“Employers are getting away with unlawful sackings and withholding wages. People with strong employment claims are immediately defeated by high costs and fees. 

“The risk of not being paid, even if successful, means for many the Employment Tribunal is just not an option. The cost of a case can sometimes be more than the award achieved and people can’t afford to fight on principle anymore.

“Citizens Advice wants to see a fair and robust review of the Employment Tribunal system to make it work for all people and employment abuses eradicated.”  


Case Study

Jack worked 40 hours a week for over two months as a kitchen porter. When he left he was not paid holiday entitlement which was calculated at just under £300. Bolton Citizens Advice Bureau helped Jack request this from his former employer but they did not respond. Jack was advised he would be unlikely to qualify for remission of the Employment Tribunal fees as his wife works. On being informed the fees were £390, Jack decided it was not cost effective to bring this claim.


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