Employment tribunal claims more than tripled last year and average pay-outs jumped dramatically, new figures show.
More than 5,000 fresh claims were brought in the year to October 1999 compared with 1,533 in the previous year.
The rise is set to continue. Government, unions and employers all predict new employment laws will cause a huge increase in claims this year. Key rules, including the reduction in the qualifying period for unfair dismissal to one year and a rise in maximum pay-outs to £50,000, were not in force in the survey period.
Awards in race and sex bias and redundancy cases also rose.
The highest ever compensation awards for race discrimination (£500,000), breach of contract (£500,000) and wrongful dismissal (£300,000) all occurred last year. Pay-outs in cases where unions were involved averaged more than double those taken without union support.
The report, produced for the TUC by the Labour Research Department, is further evidence of a change of tactics by unions away from strike action and towards the courts.
TUC general secretary John Monks said the rise in claims is due to growing confidence among unions that tribunals will settle cases in their favour.
Union spending on legal services reached £20m last year. They won £14.3m for members in tribunal awards, the TUC Trends Survey found.
By John Robinson