Employment tribunals: Welsh Counsel General Theodore Huckle attacks fee plan
Charging people to bring employment tribunals undermines the principle of free access to justice, the Welsh government's chief legal adviser says.
Counsel General Theodore Huckle QC was responding to a UK government consultation.
There is currently no fee for applying to bring a claim to an employment tribunal.
The UK government says it wants to reduce a "taxpayer subsidy".
It announced its plans late last year, and a Ministry of Justice consultation is underway.
There would be a refund for anyone who wins their case under the changes. The low-paid, or those without an income, may also have the fee waived or reduced at the start of the process.
The UK government hopes businesses will become more confident about hiring people if the risk of tribunals is reduced, but unions have criticised the idea.'Democratic settlement'
In a letter to Justice Secretary Ken Clarke on behalf of the Welsh government, Mr Huckle said: "True and free access to justice for all citizens, whether their claims are popular or unpopular, is an integral part of the democratic settlement in the UK.
"This is irrespective of, but very much supported by, the principles of the European Convention on Human Rights.
"Accordingly, a failure to ensure free access to justice is highly detrimental to the relationship between citizens and state. It undermines social cohesion within the UK and is contrary to 'Big Society' thinking."
The proposals were "very much contrary to the UK government's reform of the welfare system, designed to 'make work pay'", he said.
Approaching a legal court or tribunal was off-putting for many people, he said, adding: "To be required to do so and pay substantial fees as well in advance will undoubtedly deter many applicants with good claims who will thereby be denied access to justice."
In its consultation, the Ministry of Justice said: "Bringing a claim or an appeal to the employment tribunal or the employment appeal tribunal is currently free of charge with the full cost of running the tribunals being met by the taxpayer.
"The aim of these proposals is to reduce the taxpayer subsidy of these tribunals by transferring some of the cost to those who use the service, while protecting access to justice for the most vulnerable."