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Equality Bill

Part of the debate – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:31 am on 9th June 2009.

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Stephen Alambritis: My members want access to justice themselves. They get free legal advice on employment issues from the FSB. If they take any action in contravention to that advice, we will not support them in the run-up to an employment tribunal. Likewise, staff deserve access to justice. I think that in the early ’90s, there were 30,000 employment tribunal cases and the latest statistics show something like 200,000, so there is an increasing tendency for employment disputes to end up at employment tribunals. What we do not want is vexatious applications that undermine the confidence of employers, both large and small, in the employment tribunal system. Some years ago—about four or five years—we helped one of our members through an employment tribunal case. The judge awarded £10,000, which is the highest that can be awarded, against the worker because it was so vexatious and litigious. We need to ensure that it is a fair system. Behind all those stats, there are the areas to which Katja referred where there is an agreement to close the case even though the employer is fully justified in carrying on. We need to get that balance right. We need access to fair justice for both sides.