Unlawful employment practices will continue to go unpunished unless the tribunal system is overhauled, the Law Society has warned. The body representing solicitors has published proposals to transform the employment tribunal structure to benefit employees, employers and the administration of justice.
They include a new employment tribunal structure, where claims are dealt with flexibly, depending on their intricacy and the financial stakes involved, and all employment law disputes will be dealt with in a single jurisdiction consisting of four levels.
According to the proposed structure, simple cases such as handling unpaid wages claims would be dealt with on a paper basis in the lowest level, while more complex cases - such as multi-strand discrimination cases - would be heard by an experienced judge in level four.
That, says the Law Society, would create an efficient system where employers and employees could get a feasible recourse. In addition, alternative dispute resolution exit points would be available throughout the system.
Law Society president Jonathan Smithers said: "Employment tribunals must work for employers and employees. People should not be discouraged from bringing legitimate claims or from opposing them because of the cost or complexity associated with the process.
"Our proposed system would be easy for the public to use - as there would be a single entry point - and would make sure that cases are dealt with in the most appropriate way. The single jurisdiction would increase awareness of different types of alternative dispute resolution."
The Ministry of Justice is currently conducting a review into the introduction of employment tribunal fees. The fees were intended to transfer the cost of running the employment tribunal system to users and to encourage employers and employees to resolve disputes without going to tribunals. However, people who have lost their job and are facing financial uncertainty are often unable to pay the fee.
Jonathan Smithers continued: "Ministry of Justice statistics show that, since the introduction of employment tribunal fees, the number of disputes proceeding to the tribunal has collapsed by over 60%. The Â£1,200 that a claimant must pay for most types of cases is close to the average monthly salary, putting the tribunal well beyond the reach on many people - particularly those on lower incomes."