Workers’ rights to compensation under threat from all sides
Workers are facing an onslaught by the government on their ability to claim compensation. There are three proposals to strip us of our rights being considered at the moment.
While chief executives seem to manage to get huge sums of compensation when they are sacked or resign after screwing up, us lesser mortals have only been able to look on with envy. However when we are sacked unfairly we have at least been able to rely on our unions and, as a last resort, an Employment Tribunal. The government wants to either stop that or make it more expensive. As well as changing the time you have to have been working for your employer to be able to make a claim to an Employment Tribunal from one year to two years they plan to charge us for the pleasure of seeking any form of justice. Applicants will be obliged to pay the costs of an unfair dismissal claim which will only be refunded if the employee wins.
The government is proposing to charge £200 to lodge a claim and £1000 for a hearing, They have given another option of an upfront fee of £500 to access the Tribunal that can rise to £1750 if the employee is claiming more than £30,000 in compensation. The fees will be even higher if a worker believed they were sacked because of their sex, race, disability, age, sexual orientation or religion and belief.
At the same time they are trying to prevent us claiming compensation if we are injured or made ill through work caused by the employers’ negligence.
Under proposals going through Parliament at the moment, union members will be among the millions who are deprived of the ability to claim compensation, or who will lose damages. As many as 25% of injury claims will not be brought. Those that proceed might lose up to 25% of damages for the success fee and further substantial reductions for required legal expense insurance.
Many people will no longer be able to obtain representation, particularly for low value/complex cases. However although a claim of £3,000 or £4,000 may be considered to be low value by the Government, it is not low value to a cleaner who earns £6 an hour and represents four months wages.
Finally they are proposing to slash the payments that you can get under the criminal injuries compensation scheme. These payments are certainly not huge – often around a thousand pounds, but they can go to shop workers or security staff who are assaulted. Tube workers who have had to cope with the trauma of a suicide jumping in front of their train have also benefited.
That is now to change. In a consultation document issued this week the Government says it wants to remove around 17,000 victims of violence crime every year from the scheme including those with injuries like a smashed hand or an injury to the knee that is serious enough to require surgery. In addition many of those who still qualify will find the compensation cut, so even people with minor brain damage face a cut in their payments.
It is not a coincidence that all these proposals are coming together. The government has been wound up about a non-existent compensation culture by insurance companies who are happy to take insurance premiums but have taken a series of court cases to try to stop them paying out when things go wrong, including several aimed at asbestos victims. The coalition government is also hell-bent of removing as many employment rights as it can, so expect more to come.