Local workers need their rights enforced through greater access to justice
Bristol Law Centre has launched a ‘Take a closer look’ campaign to fight discrimination and unfair treatment at work by helping workers access legal help and representation. Since dramatic cuts to legal aid (LASPO 2012), legal advice has only been available for discrimination cases (and not general employment problems) via a government telephone gateway, with little or no access to face to face advice or representation. This has resulted in many vulnerable people, experiencing discrimination in the workplace, not getting the help they need to seek redress.
Legal Expenses Insurance (LEI) is a standard ‘add-on’ to household insurance policies and it allows people to fund specialist legal advice and representation in employment-rights and discrimination cases – over 25 million households have this cover and many don’t know that it can help them with employment issues.
Bristol Law Centre has developed a range of materials, including a leaflet and short animation, to raise awareness of using LEI to access advice (the animation can be seen at www.bristollawcentre.org.uk/lei); and is already working with the Equality Advisory and Support Service and other key partners to reach workers and promote LEI.
“The Equality Advisory Support Service helpline is very excited to be working with Bristol Law Centre. With around half of all calls made to our helpline based on workplace discrimination – around 22,000 every year – it’s important that we work closely with partners to ensure people get expert support with discrimination claims. Partnering with Bristol Law Centre allows us to refer more callers for specialist legal advice and representation and we are looking forward to helping workers gain greater access to justice within the workplace.” Andrew Goldsby, from the Equality Advisory Support Service.
Dave Miller, Director of Bristol Law Centre adds
“Our vision is a society where everyone has access to justice and our ‘Take a closer look’ campaign supports this cause. We believe that Legal Expenses Insurance can enable many more workers to challenge discrimination and unfair treatment at work and gain the best resolution for themselves and their families. The threat of legal action also provides a powerful deterrent, holding employers to account and helping to create a fairer and more equal society.”
1. Earlier this year, the Ministry of Justice conducted a review of legal aid and has reinstated access to face-to-face legal advice in discrimination cases only, but there are still many vulnerable workers who will not qualify.
2. Equality & Human Rights Commission, ‘Access to legal aid for discrimination cases’ report, June 2019.
3. Bristol Law Centre is a charity and a leading expert in discrimination and employment law. You can find out more about the ‘Take a closer look’ campaign at www.bristollawcentre.org.uk/lei, where you’ll find campaign materials, including a unique animation to explain more about Legal Expenses Insurance.
4. Bristol Law Centre is part of the Law Centres Network
5. EASS is a helpline that assists individuals on issues relating to equality and human rights, across England, Scotland and Wales.
6. Other Images available, please let us know.
Alice has a disability which causes chronic pain in her hands and arms. She also suffers with depression, anxiety and panic disorder. Alice asked her employer for a voice recognition package, so she could do her job without increasing levels of pain and disability; they failed to provide this. As a result, Alice struggled to do the simplest things in life we all take for granted, such as washing her hair, or even wearing sleeves on her arms. It also added to her anxiety and depression.
Alice contacted Bristol Law Centre’s specialist employment team, who confirmed that her employer should provide reasonable adjustment for her disability. They advised that she could take a discrimination claim to the employment tribunal for their failure to do so. Alice was also told about Legal Expenses Insurance (LEI) and on checking her household policy, she discovered that she did have the cover to pay for a lawyer. She says “I was scared to go through the process, but my lawyer was so calm and knowledgeable and helped me to understand every step of the way. I felt much more in control, and stronger.”
Alice’s employer eventually settled her case for an undisclosed sum. The money has made a huge difference to her life; allowing her to pay for therapy to help her manage her disability and panic disorder. Alice was desperate when she contacted Bristol Law Centre, but now feels much more confident about her life, her ability to work and her future.
Despite the government’s telephone gateway dealing with over 18,000 discrimination cases since 2013, only 16 people were referred for face-to-face advice between 2013-2016, with no referrals between 2016-2017. Legal aid for discrimination cases dropped by nearly 60% after the telephone service was introduced and only four cases were recorded as receiving an award from a court or tribunal between 2013-2014 (Equality and Human Rights Commission Inquiry, December 2018) – also read https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/legal-aid-cuts-discrimination-court-human-rights-ehrc-report-a8963581.html