Tribunal reform is the best way forwardOn 1 Mar 2001 in Vexatious claims, Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. Should legal aid be available for employment tribunal cases? Will it just encourage more people to try iton or is it an important way of ensuring equal access to justice? Compiled by Lucy CarringtonBernard Kingsley Employee relations manager, ManpowerIntroducing legal aid throughout the rest of the UK could lead to an unevenplaying field, to employers’ disadvantage. If applicants get better qualityrepresentation through legal aid then employers will have to follow that and sothe costs of tribunals will increase. Clearly there has been a trend towardslegalism in the way in which tribunals operate. For example, workers often tendto be represented and, given the increasing complexity of aspects of employmentlaw, need to be better represented. However, if we look at the original purposeof employment tribunals it was to provide a relatively straightforwardprocedure to bring claims that did not involve huge costs for either employeeor employer. I’m more interested in the recent – but long overdue – proposals to improvetribunal procedures. These include giving tribunals the power to strike outweak cases at any stage in the proceedings. Tribunals will also be able toimpose a penalty against employees, or employers, who act unreasonably. It isrelatively easy for people to bring claims and with 40,000 staff nationally, wedo get a number throughout the year. But there are more spurious claims now andtribunals have not yet had the teeth to weed some of these out. It is important that people have the opportunity to bring claims, but thishas to be balanced against the constraints on employers. For example, bigemployers who tend to be doing things properly in the first place, will almostcertainly be the hardest hit by any increase in the number of cases. There is also the problem of consistency. We deal with tribunals in England,Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and there is a marked discrepancy betweenall the four countries. This is especially so in terms of the speed at whichtribunals handle claims – Northern Ireland is particularly slow. But evenwithin England there is a big variation in the speed and manner in which claimsare dealt with. We urgently need to see the Government’s reforms to the employment tribunalsprocess in action. TerryGorman President, Socpo and assistant chief executive, Nottingham County CouncilI’mnot in favour at all. I believe employees should become members of a union.Unions help the industrial relations process and provide members with usefulbenefits including funding their tribunal cases. To support legal aid wouldundermine the union role.Inprinciple, anyone with a justifiable claim should be able to make a claim but Iwelcome the Government’s proposed penalty for vexatious claims. On the whole,Socpo is keen on most of the tribunal reforms that are on the table. There area few other things we would like to have seen, for example, some sectorspecific tribunals. It would help if tribunals understood the nature of localgovernment.DominicJohnsonHead of employee relations There’sno clear evidence that lack of legal aid is preventing people from taking theirclaims forward and I’m not sure that introducing it would have any impact. Noram I convinced that the Human Rights Act could be invoked if it were notavailable.Therationale for introducing legal aid is potentially flawed. The Scottishexecutive decided to push ahead because it feared someone might take a testcase under the Human Rights Act. But it has pre-empted things a bit as no casehas been through the courts yet. Wewant to see a case go through the courts before the UK government takes anyaction.SarahVealeSenior employment rights officer, TUCThereal problem lies not with tribunals but in the workplace. Most claims are fromsmall to medium sized firms where employers do not have the procedures to dealwith discipline and grievances. So no one gets a second chance. Butin large organisations line managers and employees usually get to put theircase through internal personnel procedures. The result could be a final warningfor an employee so that everyone feels they have had a hearing.It’sinteresting that as the amount of employee litigation has gone up the number ofworkers covered by union agreements has gone down.’DavidWebbPersonnel manager, industrial relations, Group 4 Total Security LtdPeopleare more aware of their rights to complain and one aspect of tribunals thatconcerns us is that there are more of them, and on a variety of subjects. Wehave also found that increasingly employees will file a claim externally at thesame time as raising it internally. Wewant to restore the position where we resolve matters internally and so arerevising our grievance and discipline procedure. We’ve run a fairly relaxedprocess until now, but we have had a number of people who have tried to raisegrievances in ways that are unacceptable.It’sa difficult conundrum. We fully support people’s right to make legal claims andwe encourage people to join trade unions, but we must not see personneldepartments bogged down in unnecessary process. Related posts:No related photos.