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The cost of a hollow victory

5 November 2013

The cost of a hollow victory [ 75 kb]

Enforcement of employment tribunal awards

Citizens Advice has long highlighted the injustice for so many workers who battle through the stress and complexity of successfully taking their employer to tribunal only to never see a penny of the money awarded to them. The cost of a hollow victory calls for the government to take direct responsibility for enforcement of awards in order to address this, particularly in the light of the substantial fees which must now be paid to access the Employment Tribunal.

The cost of a hollow victory was written to coincide with publication of research commissioned by the Department for Business Innovation & Skills into current levels of payment of awards, take up of enforcement routes and reasons for non-payment (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/payment-of-employment-tribunal-awards).  The key findings of that research are:

  • only half of people given a monetary award receive full or part payment of that award without having to take enforcement action;
  • the number of people receiving full or part payment increases to two thirds following enforcement action, meaning that a third of people never see any of their money.  Only half actually receive full payment.
  • the most common reason for non payment of awards is employer insolvency; however over half of the claimants giving this as a reason believed that the company was in fact trading again under a different name or at a different location.

In the press release accompanying publication of the research, Employment Relations Minister Jo Swinson expressed a determination to clamp down on businesses who fail to pay and set out some options under consideration. These include:

  • giving judges the power to demand deposits from businesses who they think might not pay up
  • fixed penalty notices for late payment
  • naming and shaming employers who fail to pay out.

While it is encouraging that we are finally seeing some drive to address this issue, Citizens Advice is disappointed that there has so far been no indication that direct government involvement with the enforcement of awards is being considered. We intend to do all we can to ensure the current momentum on this issue is maintained, and we also look forward to providing input into the development of the Government’s proposals for reform.

The cost of a hollow victory [ 75 kb]