On Tuesday 1st December 2015 I spoke in a Westminster Hall debate on the impact that Employment Tribunal fees have had on access to justice. The debate was led by my Labour colleague Justin Madders MP.
Prior to entering Parliament, I was a solicitor and Director of Thompsons Solicitors, a national firm of employment law specialists, who advise and represent thousands of trade union members every year and conduct a substantial number of Employment Tribunal cases. So this is a subject that I am passionate and concerned about.
Employment Tribunal fees were not introduced to solve a real problem. They were introduced to diminish the voice of ordinary working people, of trade unions and their members.
I referred to comments made by the Cabinet Office Minister Matthew Hancock's about people who bring claims to employment tribunals and criticised his allegations that they were out to make a "fast buck." I asked the Government Minister from the Ministry of Justice for evidence to back up Mr Hancock’s comments. There isn't any.
I went on to say that by preventing access to justice through unaffordable Tribunal fees, the Government is not just weeding out unmeritorious cases – it is weeding out nearly all cases.
Since fees were introduced, sex discrimination cases have declined by 90%.
Women have born the brunt of 75% of this Government's public sector spending cuts, we are now having to fund our own rape and domestic violence clinics via the tampon tax and if any of us are subject to sex discrimination at work or sacked because we're pregnant, we have to pay over £1200 fees to bring a case.
The Government has priced women particularly out of access to Employment Tribunals to challenge unlawful treatment. This is grossly unfair.
I concluded by discussing the Redundancy Fund, where people who are made redundant and their employer goes bust, have to pay Tribunal fees simply in order to get their redundancy pay.
The Justice Select Committee is currently holding an inquiry into access to justice. I hope they will, when they publish their report, recommend the abolition of Employment Tribunal fees.
I also asked the Minister to listen to the arguments and points made in the debate and relay them to his Ministry of Justice colleagues. Fees need to be scrapped.
You can watch my full contribution to the debate here: