Monday, 29 July 2013

A bad day for Justice?

Plans announced today to curtail our rights to challenge bad law are wrong. Using the Courts to challenge arbitrary government is one of the pillars of a strong democracy. Charities over the years have been able to use judicial review to protect the rights of the vulnerable and of poorer communities. Charities that campaign for the disabled in particular have been able to use our Courts to challenge the perverse and damaging consequences of poor law.

Today, for example, we should hear the results of a judicial challenge to the bedroom tax on behalf of disabled people who have been hit particularly badly by this arbitrary attempt at social engineering of the poor and vulnerable.

It’s also not sensible for Governments of any hue. Often legislators don't comprehend the full effect or unintended consequences of their actions. The Courts are there to help put that right. In the end, that makes for better laws.

We also have the new procedures for unfair dismissal claims. I think giving tribunals more power to stop or curtail vexatious claims is helpful to smaller employers like charities and social enterprises. Similarly encouraging mediation is sensible. But I'm not sure the charges to bring a claim are right. That might deter the bad claim but it would be wrong if it denied access to justice for claimants who have been treated badly. Again, this is not necessarily good for employers. We all need systems that encourage good HR practices and discourage arbitrary justice. Frances O'Grady mad a good point when she said this is a good day for bad employers.

Disabled people or those with mental health problems for example, have often fallen foul of bad employers. I know many charity CEOs employing staff have said they think it’s too easy to bring vexatious claims, but they also fully accept that good employers must accept the rigours of the law in protecting staff. So much of the change coming into effect that encourages mediation Rather than recourse to law is very welcome. We will have to see if the charge to even bring a claim has also a perverse effect.

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