Slight rise in tribunal claims in 2005 but age ‘havoc’ predicted next year

Employment tribunal applications only rose slightly in 2005, but legal experts expect a massive rise in the number of claims this year as forthcoming age discrimination legislation will “cause havoc”.

The total number of applications in 2005 was 100,203, up 2.3% from 97,896 in 2004, according to figures independently compiled by law firm Peninsula. The official figures are not released by the government until July. The total number of claims is down from a peak in 2003, when 127,594 were lodged, Peninsula said.

Mike Huss, senior employment law specialist at the firm, said he had no doubt that the forthcoming age regulations would see the number of claims rocket.

“The regulations are going to cause havoc,” he said. “There are no helpful pointers for employers about what makes their reasons for turning someone down [for working beyond 65] acceptable like there are with flexible working. We will have to wait for case law to evolve. Employers are essentially going to fund their own case law.”

Huss also warned there were worrying developments in the way employment tribunals were dealing with cases brought under the statutory grievance procedures.

Under regulations that came into force in October 2004, if an employer has not followed the statutory procedures in a dismissal case, the dismissal will be ‘automatically unfair’.

“The insistence on employers fulfilling their obligations is phenomenal, but tribunals are not enforcing the regulations with the same strictness on staff,” Huss said.

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