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'Legal aid cuts will mean more employment tribunals'

Wednesday 16th November 2011

Abolishing legal aid for employment advice will have the perverse effect of increasing the number of cases that end up at an employment tribunal, national charity Citizens Advice has warned.

Far from achieving the Government's objective of saving money and resolving disputes at an early stage, it predicts that the move will have the opposite effect.  It is urging the Government to rethink planned legal aid cuts or else find another way to fund the employment-related information, advice and assistance of the kind currently provided by Citizens Advice Bureaux and others to both workers and employers.

In its response to the Government's consultation on promoting economic growth through a strong and efficient labour market, Citizens Advice welcomes the Government's commitment to enforce fundamental employment protection against employers who try to gain an unfair advantage by exploiting staff.

But it says this pledge is meaningless unless people continue to have access to the specialist legal advice that plays a key role in resolving disputes and potential disputes at an early stage, thereby averting thousands of employment tribunal claims.

Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said: "We strongly back the Government's commitment to ensure that rogue employers determined to operate outside the law are not allowed to unfairly undercut business rivals by exploiting their workers. We agree absolutely that the most vulnerable workers - those most likely to be exploited by unscrupulous bosses - must be effectively protected.

"But abolishing legal aid for employment cases is no way to achieve these very laudable aims. If the legal aid cuts go ahead, Citizens Advice Bureaux will no longer be able to offer the specialist legal advice and casework that helps resolve more than 3000 employment problems every year, most involving vulnerable workers in low paid, low skilled work, who have nowhere else to turn for help.

"The Government still has time to rethink these plans and prevent legal aid cuts undermining its efforts to promote growth through a strong and efficient labour market, and to create a level playing field that is fair to workers and decent employers alike."

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Mike Jones

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