Government proposes removing legal aid for most employment claims

The Government has proposed removing legal aid for most employment claims in England and Wales, including legal aid for advice in advance of non-discrimination employment tribunal hearings and representation for employment matters heard outside the tribunal system and in appeals to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT). 

Although legal aid is not available for representation in employment tribunals in England and Wales, there is some "legal help" for getting advice in advance of employment tribunal proceedings. In addition, legal aid for both advice and representation is available for appeals to the EAT and employment-related matters considered outside the tribunal system (for example, claims for breach of contract exceeding £25,000). 

The Government's consultation on the reform of legal aid proposes removing legal aid for help on most employment matters, meaning that claimants would no longer be able to get financial assistance for:

  • advice in advance of employment tribunal hearings (although "legal help" for discrimination claims in relation to employment will continue);
  • representation for employment matters heard outside the tribunal system; and
  • representation in appeals to the EAT. 

The Government's rationale is that "legal aid is not justified in this area of law" because of the:

  • ability of claimants and appellants to represent themselves in "the easily accessible and user-friendly procedure of the tribunal";
  • use of damages-based agreements in employment cases, whereby the fee that is payable to the representative is contingent on the success of the case and is calculated by reference to the amount of damages awarded; and
  • availability of alternative routes to resolution, such as employer-funded mediation and the services of Acas. 

The consultation runs until 14 February 2011. 

There is a different system in Scotland, where legal aid for representation in employment tribunal claims is more readily available. 


Can an employee bring a breach of contract claim in an employment tribunal? The XpertHR FAQs section answers this frequently asked question. 

In the employment tribunals XpertHR provides summaries of recent employment tribunal rulings, as well as the full transcripts of the decisions. 

Tribunal Watch XpertHR's Tribunal Watch blog has been reporting on suggestions as to how the number of employment tribunal claims can be reduced: