TUC deputy general secretary Brendan Barber was due to tell the TUC Congress that despite claims from employers that employment tribunal hearings represent employees 'having a punt' (as the CBI have claimed), research accepted by the government shows that employers are getting away with as many as 750,000 breaches of employment law without facing a tribunal hearing every year.
To coincide with the debate the TUC has published a briefing on 'compensation culture' myths that shows:
Only one in 800 people at work took a grievance to a tribunal hearing last year.
While there has been an increase in tribunal cases, the main cause has not been new rights introduced by the current government, but the growth of small businesses who lack fair procedures for dealing with staff.
Further bulges in statistics are caused by the inability of the tribunal system to hear test cases. The increase in cases last year was almost wholly accounted for by 9,000 identical claims by retained (part-time) firefighters, claiming discrimination compared to full time firefighters. Although the arguments are the same in each case, everyone affected must make a formal claim or risk losing out because of the strict three month time-limit for claims.
Despite headlines for a few big awards, the median award for unfair dismissal is£2,515 and for discrimination£2,180. Rather than a route to riches, half of tribunal applicants report lower status or lower paid employment after taking their case. 23 per cent are unemployed.
Unions are not behind the rise in tribunal cases. Unions negotiate procedures that means individual grievances are normally settled within organisations. In contrast 60 per cent of small employers facing claims - the least likely to be unionised - have no grievance or disciplinary procedures.
Proceedings are not stacked against employers. They win half the cases at tribunal.
Employers are the main causes of expensive prolonged hearings. While some claims do involve complex legal argument, most cases are matters of fact that can be resolved without legal representation. Tribunals were set up to be relatively informal.
The TUC supports measures that will reduce the number of tribunal cases if they encourage employers to adopt better and fairer systems for dealing with staff or encourage fair settlement of cases without the need for a formal hearing.