A CHARITY worker who was awarded £75,000 by an employment tribunal but never received a penny has launched a landmark legal challenge at the UK’s highest court calling for better enforcement of payouts.

Anela Anwar, who won the substantial sum after suffering sexual and religious harassment at Glasgow-based charity, claims her former employer moved money from its bank account to avoid paying out.

She is now arguing that employment tribunals should have the power to arrest funds to ensure that claimants receive the money owed to them if they win their case.

Non-payment of tribunal awards is a widespread problem, particularly in Scotland – where half of all successful claimants never receive any of the money awarded to them.

It is understood that, if successful, the case could potentially pave the way for other claimants to raise similar actions against the UK Government.

The UK Government, which is defending the Supreme Court action, claims there are provisions in place at the sheriff court which would allow for funds to be arrested pending the outcome of a tribunal.

However, Aidan O’Neill QC, representing Ms Anwar, claims the process is ineffective and the “astonishing remedy gap” is in breach of EU law.

The Equality and Human Right Commission (EHRC) Scotland has also intervened in the case and claims the cost of sheriff court action – estimated at £1,500 – as well as a number of other factors deter workers from pursuing action there. The commission said it was not aware of anyone having taken such action at the time of Ms Anwar’s tribunal.

An EHRC Scotland spokesman said: “We believe Ms Anwar’s case is an example of a much wider problem faced by people trying to enforce their employment tribunal awards.

“Ms Anwar was awarded around £75,000 by an employment tribunal which made 29 findings in her favour, of discrimination, harassment and victimisation on the grounds of sex and religion. However, her employer removed money from its bank account and Ms Anwar’s lawyer was not able to attain the funds and the award was never paid.”

Under EU law, individuals have a right to “effective remedy and dissuasive sanction” if their equality rights are breached. While the UK has left the EU, the Trade Agreement contains provisions that neither party will reduce employment rights.

Ms Anwar, who is appealing to the Supreme Court after losing her initial cases at the Court of Session, is seeking damages for the Government’s alleged failure to meet her rights under the EU legislation.

Mr O’Neill told the court: “One cannot dismiss the evidence which is to the effect that employment tribunal orders are not being able to be enforced, and one of the reasons has to be that the employment tribunals don’t have the power to order the protective remedies necessary.”

Christine O’Neill QC, representing EHRC Scotland, told the court it was clear that parallel proceedings – i.e. a case at the employment tribunal and the sheriff court – “do not provide effective remedy”.

She said a UK Government report showed that claimants in Scotland “were significantly more likely to say they could not afford further action to try to recover their award”.

This was linked to the greater costs of action at the sheriff court, compared to county courts in England and Wales.

Mr O’Neill has said the case, if successful, should be remitted to the Court of Session for an award of damages.

A decision in the case will be issued later this year.