Tribunal wins are hollow victory

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Claimants are struggling to recover Tribunal awards from employers says charity Citizens Advice Bureaux who are calling upon the Department of Constitutional Affairs and the Department of Trade and Industry to undertake an urgent joint review of the enforcement of Employment Tribunal awards.

According to the organisation, evidence suggests that non-payment of Employment Tribunal awards is widespread and could be set to increase.

In further bad news for wronged-workers the report Empty Justice reveals that Employment Tribunals in England and Wales have no power to enforce payments. Chasing awards incurs further costs and expends time, putting many claimants off.

Citizens Advice director of policy Teresa Perchard said: “We are very concerned that non-payment of awards by employers is widespread and that all too often a favourable tribunal ruling proves to be a meaningless victory.

“There are just too many legal and financial obstacles to the enforcement of awards. At a time when the Government is actively seeking to have most of all kinds of disputes resolved fully out of court, it is nonsensical that people have to go to court not just once but twice, simply to get the result they are entitled to and without any real help along the way.”

The average cost for chasing unpaid awards costs £30 in the first instance. The first step being to list the claim on the Register of County Court Judgments. If this fails, claimants can instruct the courts to issue a warrant of execution or a third party debt order. Such a course of action can command a fee of £50.

In a warning to claimant hopefuls, however, the charity says that cases exist where employers have still failed to pay up despite these pursuant procedures.

Examples of failed claims include a worker who was awarded a payout of £3,500 in compensation for unpaid redundancy pay but despite numerous letters and phone calls had not received a penny.

Citizens Advice Bureaux are urging the government to make provision for a mechanism to better enforce awards suggesting that such a ruling should be included in the Courts and Tribunals Bill being brought forward next year. The state could pay the award to the claimant, and then itself pursue the employer, for example.

In 2003-4, 13,000 Employment Tribunal claims were successful, many involving unfair dismissal and unpaid wages.

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