Ipswich: Fees for employment tribunals condemned by former teaching assistant unfairly dismissed
- Credit: Andrew Partridge
A teaching assistant unfairly sacked by an Ipswich school has condemned moves to charge people bringing employment tribunals – claiming a £1,000 fee would have prevented her from winning £28,000 in damages.
Tracy Hodgkinson was awarded the pay-out after an employment tribunal, held in December, found she was unfairly dismissed from her position at Halifax Primary School in January 2012.
The 47-year-old, of Hawthorn Drive, was sacked after concerns were raised over her contact with her sex offender son.
She was dismissed in January 2012 but took the Prince of Wales Drive school to a tribunal. In her judgement, tribunal Judge Moore found she was unfairly dismissed due to the way the school treated her following the arrest of her son.
From yesterday, workers in the UK will be charged a fee to bring a claim, a fee if the claim is heard and a further charge if they want to appeal against the decision.
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Under the new rules, they will have to pay £160 or £250 to lodge a claim, with a further charge of either £230 or £950 if the case goes ahead.
The higher charges will cover cases such as unfair dismissal, the lower ones issues such as unpaid invoices.
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Mrs Hodgkinson, who now works in the Sue Ryder charity shop in Ipswich, said the new rules will give employers the upper hand and will penalise many who cannot afford the fees. “I would not have been able to afford to pay £1,000,” she said.
“I couldn’t get legal aid, it was stopped for this type of case a while ago and I conducted the case myself because I couldn’t afford a lawyer.
“The reason I pursued the school was because of the moral implications – I didn’t want other people to face the prejudice I faced. I did nothing wrong and was penalised anyway.
“This is a really bad idea, it puts more power with the employers – people won’t be able to afford to get justice for themselves.”
The union Unison is strongly against the fees and has been given permission to seek a judicial review.
General secretary Dave Prentis said: “The introduction of punitive fees for taking a claim to an employment tribunal would give the green light to unscrupulous employers to ride roughshod over already basic workers’ rights.”
But Justice Minister Helen Grant, told a national news broadcaster: “It is not fair on the taxpayer to foot the entire £74m bill for people to escalate workplace disputes to a tribunal. We want people, where they can afford to do so, to pay a contribution.”