Legal Aid and Discrimination in the Workplace

Caitlyn Martin (student)

In 2018, more than a quarter of British employees said that at some point they had experienced discrimination in the workplace. The equality watchdog has warned that the current legal aid system is enabling employers to get away with discrimination. The Equality and Human Rights Commission says that more needs to be done to protect employees.

As access to legal advice and lawyers has been cut by £950m a year due to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2013, the commission has said that places of employment that continue to discriminate on grounds of sex, religion and race effectively still go unpunished as people are forced to represent themselves. This act is responsible for introducing a mandatory telephone gateway service for legal aid and removed employment tribunal representation from its scope.

David Isaac, the commission’s chairman, said: “Legal aid was specifically set up to ensure that those who have been wronged, but cannot afford their own legal representation, can access justice. The threat of legal action is a powerful deterrent for perpetrators and makes it clear that society will not tolerate injustice. Challenging such complex issues as discrimination should never be a David vs Goliath battle, and the system is failing if individuals are left to fight cases themselves at an employment tribunal or in court”.

The average worker does not earn enough to pay privately for a solicitor but is deemed to earn too much to qualify for legal aid.

At the Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC), students offer free legal advice on employment matters to members of the public. SULAC is currently open and offers appointments at Stoke and Stafford. For more information, or to book an appointment please contact: SULAC@staffs.ac.uk or call 01782 294800.

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