5: Justice and Legal Remedies in Employment Disputes: Adviser and Advisee Perspectives

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Following the examination of the legal context of employment disputes in Nicole Busby’s chapter, I explore in this chapter two key questions: how do people think about the law in relation to problems at work, or disputes with their employers, and how do advisers transform or augment these notions into action or inaction in relation to employment disputes?

In the context of the proliferation of individual employment rights and changes to the nature of workplace organisation and occupational structure, Citizens Advice Bureaux are increasingly becoming providers of employment advice – to the extent that they have been described as a new actor in employment relations, partly filling the void left by the decline of trade unions (Abbott, 1998). Bureaux offer information and advice regarding employment law, and assistance in enforcing the law via the employment tribunal system.

As described in Adam Sales’s chapter, clients bring with them varying degrees of prior understanding and expectations which advisers seek to either validate and elaborate upon, modify or transform. Clients’ notions of their employment rights are not always accurate, and as well as assisting in furthering disputes, advisers may sometimes also close them down. In the context of recent changes to employment law, such as the weakening of unfair dismissal protection and the imposition of fees for tribunals, advisers are increasingly the bearers of bad news to their clients regarding available legal options. I consider in this chapter the sometimes divergent perspectives of clients and advisers regarding justice and legal remedies, and how advisers seek to manage expectations.

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