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Hollow Victories

31 March 2005
Employment evidence cover

Hollow Victories [ 130 kb] - An update on the non-payment of Employment Tribunal awards

Summary

In September 2004, a Citizens Advice report, Empty justice, set out evidence from the advice work of Citizens Advice Bureaux relating to the non-payment of Employment Tribunal awards, and the immense legal and financial obstacles that claimants face when trying to enforce such unpaid awards in the civil courts.  Whilst it was not possible, at that time, for us to make any estimate of the proportion of all Employment Tribunal awards that go unpaid, Empty justice concluded that such non-compliance by employers is “extensive and quite possibly on the increase”.

Since the publication of Empty justice, we have conducted a survey of Citizens Advice Bureaux, with a view to providing further information on the incidence of non-payment of Employment Tribunal awards.  The findings indicate that, each year, the CAB Service in England and Wales deals with some 650-700 cases of non-payment.  This amounts to one in 20 of the some 13,000 awards made by Employment Tribunals in England and Wales.

As only a relatively small proportion of all Employment Tribunal claimants are represented or advised by a CAB, this suggests that the proportion of all Employment Tribunal awards that go unpaid – at least initially – and that must therefore be enforced through legal action in the civil courts is somewhat higher than ‘one in 20’.  Such a high rate of non-compliance by employers represents a serious threat to the overall effectiveness and credibility of the Employment Tribunal system.

The Government has acknowledged that non-payment of Employment Tribunal awards is a problem, and that the existing enforcement regime is “unsatisfactory”.  It has also indicated that its forthcoming Courts and Tribunals Bill “may provide a suitable legislative vehicle” for reform, and that it is considering “a number of options [for reform]”, including those canvassed in Empty justice.  This report sets out the full findings of our survey, as well as other recent evidence from Citizens Advice Bureaux, and re-iterates our recommendation that the Courts and Tribunals Bill include provision for unpaid Employment Tribunal awards to be directly enforced by the State.

Social Policy contact: Richard Dunstan Social.policy@citizensadvice.org.uk

Hollow Victories [ 130 kb] - An update on the non-payment of Employment Tribunal awards