Employment tribunal numbers remain stable … for now

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The number of employment tribunal claims rose very slightly during the period between April and June this year, according to the latest statistics from the Ministry of Justice.

There were 4,241 single claims received in April to June 2017, up 2% on the same period of 2016. Since the second quarter of 2014/15, single claim numbers have remained relatively stable, the MoJ said, with around 4,200 claims per quarter.

Over the year to June 2017, 88,476 cases were accepted by the tribunal service, of which 17,005 were single cases and 71,471 were multiple claims. Total claim numbers rose around 6% compared with 2015/16.

With the recent ruling by the Supreme Court that tribunal fees are unlawful, this relative stability in claims may not last, as more employees decide to bring claims without the barrier of fees.

There were 9,518 multiple claims received between April and June, a decrease of 19% on the same period last year. These related to 254 cases – an average of 37 claims per multiple case, down from 333 cases in the same period in 2016.

The maximum compensation awarded during the 2016/17 period was in an unfair dismissal case, where £1.7 million was awarded. The next most significant was a race discrimination case, where £0.5 million was awarded.

During the year to June 2017, more than 30,000 cases were brought under the Working Time Directive, 12,038 for unfair dismissal, and 10,467 for equal pay. The latter was down from 17,063 cases in 2015/16.

Over the same period, the majority (86%) of claimants were represented by a lawyer, two percentage points higher than in 2015/16. Nine per cent of claimants had no representation.

Cases sent to Employment Appeal Tribunals in 2016/17 went down 8% compared to 2015/16, and the number disposed by EAT decreased by 14% over the same period.

In 2016/17, 41% of appeals dealt with at a preliminary hearing were dismissed. This proportion is higher for appeals brought by employees, where 47% appeals were dismissed compared to 29% appeals brought by employers.

Of those appeals that reached an EAT final hearing, 42% were disposed of at full hearing. For appeals brought by employees, 41% were dismissed compared to 46% of appeals brought by employers.

In terms of fees requested and paid between April and June this year, this figure was down by 1% compared to the same quarter in 2016.

Almost two-thirds (64%) of cases had the full issue fee paid outright, while 28% of cases were awarded either a full or partial remission.

However, the figures reveal the size of the challenge the Government may face in repaying fees. The statistics reveal that between July 2013 when fees were first introduced and June this year, 85,741 issue fees and 47,846 hearing fees were requested. Over the same period, 67% of the issue fees and 35% of the hearing fees were paid.

Immediately after the Supreme Court ruling, the Government said it would take immediate steps to stop charging fees and put in place arrangements to refund those who have paid – this has been estimated at around £32 million. However, details of these arrangements are still to be announced.

Stephen Simpson, principal employment law editor at XpertHR, said: “It is anticipated that the abolition of employment tribunal fees in July of this year will lead to a  sharp rise in claims. What we don’t know is whether the removal of the fees barrier will mean an immediate return to pre-July 2013 claim levels. Or will the increase be more modest or gradual?

“The latest statistics only cover the period up to June 2017, so don’t shed any light on this. However, employers and employment lawyers will be eagerly awaiting the next round of quarterly tribunal figures, covering July to September 2017. They are scheduled for publication on 14 December and should provide an indication of the initial impact of the removal of fees on claim levels.”

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