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Legal update: You pays your money and takes your choc ice

By Bela Gor

Could the Government’s proposals for charging fees to bring employment tribunal claims save money elsewhere?

You may have been thinking that the Government’s proposals to charge claimants a fee to bring an employment tribunal claim are fair enough. It has been consulting on two possible fee structures. In the first it proposes that people bringing discrimination claims be charged more because the cases are more complex and take up more resources. But isn’t this like saying the worse you’ve been treated the more you have to pay?  Perhaps we could have a private police force that charges fees in the same way – it’s more expensive to investigate a murder than a burglary because it takes more resources. Prosecuting a serial killer would of course be the most expensive but at least the families of the victims can share the cost between them – I’m getting carried away but you take my point.
The second proposal is to charge people according to how much they are claiming in compensation. If they claim less than £30,000 they pay a lower fee. The tribunal can’t then award them more than £30,000 even if this is what they would have been entitled as compensation for the treatment they received from their employer.
How about extending the same principle to a paid for NHS? Perhaps your GP should let you self diagnose and tell them what treatment you should receive. Too bad if you have something more serious that costs more – you can only get treatment up to the amount that would have covered what you said you thought you had. So if you thought you had a stomach ulcer you can be given treatment up to the value of treating a stomach ulcer. Tough luck if it’s actually cancer. You should have calculated or guessed right first time. What’s that you say, you’re not a doctor? But you’re not a lawyer either but you have to calculate the outcome of your employment tribunal claim and only get the compensation you said you thought you were entitled to. What’s the difference?
Seriously though these proposals target the most disadvantaged – those who can’t afford to go to a lawyer to find out how much their claim is worth and people who don’t have straightforward contracts. For many people the most valuable aspect of their job is their pension. Others work on a commission basis with a very low basic salary. This makes future loss very difficult to calculate compensation for. I know, I’ve stayed up half the night with a calculator trying to produce a schedule of loss for someone who worked on commission.

Access to justice for all, like access to medical treatment has made Britain a great place to live. Let’s not throw it away.

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