The news from yesterday that the coalition Government got it wrong when they introduced huge employment tribunal fees to try to raise funds for the Government and also reduce the number of vexatious cases for employers is not a shock. Hats of to Unison the Trade Union that pursued this case through all levels of the Courts system until they got their win at the Supreme Court. This is a win for ordinary people and for justice as well as for Unison. I heard the news as I was in the car with my family. Apart from myself who as a Trustee of several charities has been on the receiving end of several Employment or Industrial Tribunal cases including one vexatious one, no one in the car had ever had any experience of the ET system. However we were all of one mind that the Courts and Unison had got it right and the coalition were clearly wrong from the outset when they introduced the legislation. Of course the loss of this toxic sledgehammer which was intended to crack a very small nut does leave employers in a challenging position and simply rolling back the clock will not address the small number of nevertheless very damaging cases from people who sought to use ETs to make bogus claims to try to gain what could be substantial sums of compensation from their employer. The news report stated that the Court ruling made it clear that the proportion of vexatious cases did not diminish even though the overall number of cases fell from 7000 a year to around 1500. However it is the fear of unreasonable and costly cases that can generate a dampening impact on potential employers, both public, private and charitable. The need to ensure that in time a new balance is struck in the right way is vital if we are to ensure our economy in terms of both workers and employers is to find a better solution to the small number of bad cases that can distort many more work opportunities across the nation.
After the news of the ruling was made clear, Martha Kearney interviewed Dave Prentis of Unison and then for inexplicable reasons Charlie Mullins of Pimlico Plumbers. The news is full of what Mullins said about Jeremy Corbyn. The truth is that being called offensive names on radio is not really the issue. The BBC should be apologising to employers and employees across the country for inviting Mullins onto the programme to discuss a difficult issue as he clearly is not someone who has anything valuable to say. Because I was driving I did not take notes but he claimed that in (I think) 39 years of business he had as an employer only been involved in one ET case, even though he has 350 people working for him. Yet he believed this ruling was going to open the floodgates for many vexatious cases. As I stated above I have had more experience of ET’s than Charlie Mullins and I know that some cases are indeed vexatious. I am pleased that the one vexatious complaint we received was not successful as it could have cost a large sum and in any event it distorted the work of the charity for many months as the senior management were constantly aware of the case and its potential impact on other workers who were angry that the person concerned was acting in the way they did. Very few people would choose to participate in an ET and placing a barrier of a sum of money such as the £1,200 to do so, will have inevitably put off people who had good cases and were justified in their demand for justice. Most responsible employers will welcome this reversal of the law, but they will also want to see what can be done to protect their businesses or charities from being targeted by unscrupulous people. The BBC on the other hand should seriously question why it invited someone who had nothing constructive to say about the issue onto such a prestigious programme and waste the opportunity to hold a meaningful discussion!