The latest figures from the Ministry of Justice show that the number of employment tribunal claims ending in disposal has increased by 114%.
The rise in “disposals” – meaning the claim has been withdrawn, settled, dismissed or decided at another hearing – could be a sign that the long backlog of tribunal cases waiting to come to court has led claimants to settle instead, according to one employment lawyer.
The MoJ said 15,000 employment cases ended in disposal over the quarter April to June 2022 (Q1 2022/23), an increase of 114% compared to Q1 2020/21 (data for Q1 2021/22 is unavailable due to a database migration).
The number of multiple claims that were disposed was 8,200, while 6,500 single claimants disposed their cases.
At the end of June 2022, 487,000 cases were outstanding (43,000 single claims and 443,000 multiple claims), it said.
Hannah Ford, partner at law firm Stevens & Bolton, said an increase in the number of single claims being disposed was noteworthy.
She said: “Although the disposal of multiple claims significantly impacts the total number of disposals this quarter, there has also been a notable increase in the disposal of single claims.
“It is evident that tribunals are making some headway in processing the backlog of cases that arose as a result of the pandemic.
“Given the backlog, claimants are having to wait longer for their claims to be heard at tribunal and this may be prompting more claimants to settle their cases in preference to waiting several months if not longer before a hearing date.”
“Employers are likely to seek early resolution of matters, given the often distracting and unsettling impact that an outstanding claim has on their workforce and especially on the key individuals involved.”
Waiting for cases to be heard could create issues around sharing of evidence that could impact the outcome of claims, she added.
“Claimants and organisations alike will be mindful that facts are more difficult to prove with the passing of time, as memories fade and key witnesses may depart,” she said.
“The general economic situation, with rising cost of living and the prospect of a recession, may also be focussing minds on settlement.”
The MoJ confirmed that tribunal activities had “continued their upward trajectory” during the quarter between April and June, adding that “contrary to expectations, there has been no substantial increase in demand with the end of various government policy schemes that were implemented during Covid”.