In July 2017, the Supreme Court ruled to abolish Employment Tribunal fees on the basis of them being unlawful and unconstitutional. Since then, there has been a significant increase in the volume of Employment Tribunal claims being made.
Whilst Tribunal fees were still a requirement, the number of cases between April 2016 to March 2017 were as low as 88,461. However, in the following twelve month period in which tribunal fees were abolished (being the period of 1st April 2017 – 31st March 2018) the number of applications rocketed up to 109,685. This means that the removal of tribunal fees meant that there was around a 130% increase on outstanding Tribunal claims. This is the highest they have been since 2012, a year where there were no Tribunal fees, and the number of claims reached 191,541.
In the few months between April and June, claims went up by 165% compared to the same time frame the previous year.
Here at Aston Bond, we are experiencing the repercussions of these increases. Claims that are issued now can often experience a wait of over 6 months simply to get to the preliminary hearing stage (where directions are given for the next steps to be taken). A full hearing of just one day can often be listed more than a year after that – with longer hearings taking even longer. These substantial delays affect both claimants and respondents negatively. Claimants find it difficult to move one and find the experience extremely stressful. Respondents face uncertainty and on-going legal fees to deal with these matters.
New Employment Tribunal judges are being recruited but that takes time. Meanwhile, Employment Tribunals are struggling with demand.
Businesses need to ensure that disciplinary and grievance procedures are not only in place but are followed properly, thoughtfully and carefully. We would urge all employers to take advice at an early to stage to ensure formal litigation is avoided later on down the line.
If you would like any more advice on this or to discuss generally, please contact our Head of Employment, ilinca Mardarescu on 01753 486 777