Project Update by Lorraine Adams, Employment Specialist with Citizens Advice Edinburgh.
The volunteers and staff of Citizens Advice Edinburgh’s Employment team are absolutely delighted to see the Scottish Government’s commitment to the people of Scotland in regard to fair employment. This is not just via a single act, but a major plan to shore up our economy with work that pays and no longer leaves our clients insecure in their employment and living in poverty.
Firstly, the announcement of the abolition of Employment Tribunal Fees; this will be a reality once powers for the administration of the tribunal system are devolved. The plan was set out by the First Minister on 1st September in the programme for government 2015-16. Tribunal fees have been a major barrier to justice for our clients since their introduction in 2013, and an issue that we see in our five bureaux every day. We help our clients to hurdle this barrier by giving clear advice on how remission of the fees, full or partial, can be achieved with a little bit of effort and evidence on both sides. We successfully manage to achieve remission for approximately 90% of our clients because our employment advisers are fully trained as to what remission is and how it works.
Secondly, as a result of the Government’s Working Together Review, the Fair Work Convention has been established, bringing together a committee of government, business and trade union representatives who will define what “Fair Work” means to all in Scotland. Their mandate is to produce a Fair Work Framework to be published in March 2016. The aim is to look at what represents valuable employment both to the employer, but more importantly, to the employee with a focus on engagement, security of employment and hours, fair treatment and fair pay.
Citizens Advice Edinburgh helps the people living and working in Edinburgh to challenge all unfair treatment at work. In the year 2014-15 we had almost 4000 employment client appointments and achieved almost £112,000 in financial gains for clients. Financial gains consist of the unpaid wages, holiday pay and notice pay that our clients suffer on a daily basis and the more complex wins, or settlements, from unfair dismissals and discrimination claims that go forward to the Employment Tribunal.
The abolition of fees and a consistent high expectation on the treatment of employees and workers in Scotland means the future of employment and the lives we lead in Scotland will improve, in time. For now Citizens Advice Edinburgh staff and volunteers will continue providing our clients with clear guidance, advice and tactics on engaging and negotiating with their employers; helping to appeal disciplinaries and dismissals; tackling bullying, discrimination and harassment; and aiding with enforcement of statutory rights to ensure our clients are paid for the work they do. Our services can be accessed by anyone living or working in Edinburgh through our bureaux, outreach projects and the two evening employment clinics.
For more details on how you can access our employment services, visit our Employment Advice page.