Employment tribunal payouts rise to £32m

Payouts for equal pay, unfair dismissal, and religious and sexual orientation discrimination jumped as total employment tribunal payouts hit £32m in 2006-07, new statistics have revealed.

A Freedom of Information Act request by the Sunday Telegraph found the total amount awarded was £7m higher than 2004-05. Of the total, unfair dismissal awards made up the majority of payouts, increasing from £19.8m in 2004-05 to £26.6m in 2006-07.

Separate figures indicate the number of claims lodged have climbed sharply in the same period, from 156,000 in 2004 to 238,000 in 2006.

“These figures confirm that the tribunal system continues to strain under the weight of a very high volume of claims, many of which are weak or vexatious,” a CBI spokesman said.

He added that as many employers feel pressured to settle out of court, these statistics could be just the tip of the iceberg.

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform said a new code of practice currently before Parliament would help reduce the numbers of tribunal cases.

“The government has set out a package of measures aimed at simplifying the dispute resolution process and encouraging more informal resolution of workplace disputes as part of the Employment Bill,” he said.

“Business wants to see streamlined, simple and effective procedures to deal with disputes and employees want to have safeguards in place. These changes will help achieve that.”

Sexual discrimination claims nearly doubled, from 14,250 to 28,153 in 2006-07, although on the whole, sex, race and disability discrimination payouts have remained steady over the same period.

Leading HR directors have also backed a proposal suggesting staff that lose tribunal claims should be forced to pay the employer’s costs.

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