High-profile sex discrimination cases with large payouts for City workers could be partly responsible for the increase in employment tribunals for sexual discrimination.
With levels of compensation for sex discrimination cases uncapped, the increase is a worrying sign for employers, especially with the large publicity generated by recent cases.
Figures from the latest Employment Tribunal Service Report show a 17 per cent rise in the number of applications - growing from 98,617 to 115,042 in the past 12 months.
The figures for sexual discrimination prove the most worrying, with the numbers increasing by 76 per cent, although a large proportion were for multiple claims against the Department for Work and Pensions.
Christine Jenner, an employment lawyer with City law firm Macfarlanes said although people may be attracted by the high-profile cases in the media, few receive similar pay outs.
"Despite media coverage of these cases, the average award at a tribunal is between 8,000 and 9,000 - not the huge amounts you read about. However, because of all the newspaper stories, the awareness that these awards are uncapped is higher," she said.
Newly-introduced legislation on religion, sexual orientation and the right to request flexible working produced 22, 30 and 61 discrimination application claims respectively.
Further new laws on dispute resolution and grievance procedures are designed to reduce the number of tribunal claims, but Jenner said their introduction in October could even lead to an increase in the short term. "Initially the new changes will probably lead to more tribunals until the regulations are fully understood and the system has bedded in.
"Even in the long term greater use of conciliation or forcing people to resolve the issue internally might not help reduce numbers. "However there may be fewer issues to resolve once the case reaches the tribunal phase," she explained.
The full ETS report is available at: www.ets.gov.uk/annualreport.2004.pdf