Tribunal claims rise by more than 50% as recession bites

The number of employment tribunal cases rocketed by more than 50% last year as employees fought back against recession cutbacks, official figures have revealed.

In the 12 months ending 31 March 2010, 236,100 workers brought claims to tribunal – up 56% from 151,000 in the previous year and three times the numbers of the late 1990s, the Tribunals Service said. Taking into account multiple claims – which rose by nearly 90% on 2008-09 figures – the total number of claims reached 392,800.

The courts granted an estimated £1 billion in payouts to those who claimed they had been wrongly dismissed or suffered discrimination. The biggest payout was £729,347 in a disability discrimination case. For sex discrimination the largest award was £442,366, and the most successful race discrimination claimant won £374,922. Amounts handed out to those who showed they had suffered poor treatment because of their age were lower, with the biggest award £48,710.

The increase in claims was largely as a result of the rise in multiple claims but also as a result of the recession, according to Kevin Sadler, chief executive of the Tribunals Service. “There is no doubt that economic conditions have contributed to an increase in the number of cases received,” he said.

Of the 392,800 claims received in 2009-10, just under a quarter, (95,200) were related to the Working Time Directive (largely multiple airline industry cases that are resubmitted every three months), and 75,500 were unauthorised deductions under the Wages Act.

There were 126,300 claims associated with unfair dismissal, breach of contract and redundancy – 17% higher than in 2008-09 and 62% higher than in 2007-08.

Of the claims that were disposed of, 32% were withdrawn, 31% were Acas conciliated settlements and 13% were successful at tribunal.

The number of race discrimination claims reached 5,700 last year, meaning they have risen 40% in just two years. There were also large increases in claims over alleged discrimination on grounds of disability, religion, sexual orientation and age.

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