The Citizens Advice Bureau, an independent national charity that provides free legal, consumer and financial advice, has warned the Government that legal aid cuts will result in more people taking their grievances to employment tribunals.
While the Government aims to save taxpayers' money by resolving disputes before they come to court, the CAB predicts legal aid cuts will have the opposite effect since it will no longer be able to provide people with free advice and assistance.
The CAB supports the Government's pledge to protect vulnerable workers from exploitative employers, but claims that it is "meaningless" to promise this while simultaneously removing access to legal aid.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: "We strongly back the Government's commitment to ensure that rogue employers determined to operate outside the law are not allowed to unfairly undercut business rivals by exploiting their workers. We agree absolutely that the most vulnerable workers - those most likely to be exploited by unscrupulous bosses - must be effectively protected.
"But abolishing legal aid for employment cases is no way to achieve these very laudable aims. If the legal aid cuts go ahead, Citizens Advice Bureaux will no longer be able to offer the specialist legal advice and casework that helps resolve more than 3,000 employment problems every year, most involving vulnerable workers in low paid, low skilled work, who have nowhere else to turn for help.
"The Government still has time to rethink these plans and prevent legal aid cuts undermining its efforts to promote growth through a strong and efficient labour market, and to create a level playing field that is fair to workers and decent employers alike."
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said: "The wide ranging availability of legal aid encourages a litigious society in which far too many cases go down the court route unnecessarily. It can lead people to assume legal action is their only option, even where early practical advice could be of more help to them and avoid them needing a lawyer at all."
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