Law centres report rising demand for employment matters
Law centres are facing dramatic increases in calls from workers concerned about their employment rights during the coronavirus pandemic.
Community Law and Mediation (CLM), with law centres in Dublin and Limerick, has said it is “at capacity” after a 196 per cent year-on-year increase in consultations on employment issues, including breaches of contract, unequal treatment and difficulty access payments.
Legal rights group FLAC has also said its hotline saw a 43 per cent increase between March and April in calls about employment issues, while Law Centre NI north of the border recently reported a similar rise in queries.
Commenting on the figures, Rose Wall, CEO of Community Law and Mediation, said: “We understand that the impact of COVID-19 on businesses has been unprecedented. However, now more than ever, employers must respect the rights of their employees and the legislation that upholds those rights.”
CLM has previously called for the civil legal aid scheme to be expanded by the next government so that workers can access legal aid for employment issues.
Ms Wall said: “People are feeling overwhelmed and vulnerable to the added complexities that COVID-19 now brings to the workforce. With the number of people unemployed now at 1.1 million and set to rise in coming months, it will become increasingly difficult to challenge discrimination or mistreatment in the workplace.
“We must protect our workers and ensure that legal aid is accessible to all – this is why we are calling for urgent reform and expansion of the civil legal aid scheme in the next Programme for Government.”
CLM has written to Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party – who are currently in protracted talks to form a government – to ask them to ensure that all workers have access to legal aid and can be fairly represented in the Workplace Relations Commission.