Jeremy Corbyn has set out some clear goals for employment law which will set him at odds on many issues with the current Government. Partner, Nick Hurley, speculates on what this impact might mean.
In his leadership campaign paper Working With Women, Jeremy Corbyn set out various goals relating to employment law. One aspect, which is gaining some traction outside the Corbyn sphere in any event, relates to the abolition (or reduction) of employment tribunal fees. With Government statistics for June (the latest information) showing another year on year reduction in the number of employment tribunal claims, the landscape of tribunal litigation has radically changed.
There has been an approximate 80% reduction in claims overall since fees were introduced. It is clear that the former Government’s objective to stem the tide of litigation (that was often perceived in many cases to be meritless) has over achieved and been too successful. Those to the left of the political debate have been campaigning for fees to be abolished or at least reduced to improve access to justice but so far, the legal challenges by Unison have been unsuccessful. However, one senses a shift in the debate with Scotland recently announcing its intention to abolish fees at a time when the Government is consulting on the issue.
Will the Corbyn effect add to this shift in the debate? If he stays the course (which is questionable) the political clamour to rebalance the impact of fees on access to justice will grow. In the current climate, it seems unlikely that fees will be abolished, but the case for reduction and recalibration will become increasingly irresistible.
What other changes will Corbyn seek to make? In addition to the removal of Tribunal fees, Jeremy Corbyn wants to give all “workers” unfair dismissal rights from day one, ie reducing the current two year service qualification, to zero. Whilst he refers to granting this right to all “workers” it is not clear whether he actually means the more limited group of “employees” as is currently the case. If he does mean the wider workforce, then this would be a fundamental shift in extending employment rights to all workers.
He also wants to strengthen trade union recognition and bargaining, which clearly runs counter to the current Trade Union Bill being debated in Parliament. This Bill is seen by many commentators as an attempt to curb the right to strike, introducing minimum turnout and voting thresholds before strike action can be taken.
With the current Government looking to increase deregulation and reduce the burdens on business, and the Labour leader seeking increased rights and protection for workers, the passage of employment legislation through the current Parliament is unlikely to be smooth.