Scrapping legal aid for employment advice will increase the number of cases going to employment tribunals, the charity Citizens Advice has warns.
Responding to the government’s consultation on promoting economic growth through a strong and efficient labour market, Citizens Advice says removing legal aid for employment cases will not save money, as the government hopes, but rather have the ‘perverse’ effect of increasing the number of cases that end up before tribunals.
Specialist legal advice plays a key role in resolving disputes and potential disputes at an early stage, the charity says. It urges the government to rethink the planned cuts or find another way to fund the employment information, advice and assistance currently provided by Citizens Advice and others.
The charity says the government’s commitment to enforcing fundamental employment protection against employers who exploit staff is ‘meaningless’ unless people have access to specialist legal 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.’ But she said abolishing legal aid for employment cases was not the way achieve this.
‘If the legal aid cuts go ahead, Citizens Advice will no longer be able to offer the specialist legal advice and casework that helps resolve more than 3,000 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.’