The Judicial Appointments Commission is to recruit 54 new judges in a bid to tackle a backlog of cases in the employment tribunal system.
The tribunal system has been struggling to keep up with an increase in cases since fees were found to be unlawful by the Supreme Court in July 2017.
New cases brought by individuals almost doubled in the first full quarter of data since fees were abolished, increasing by 90% in the three months to December 2017, compared with the same quarter the year before. This level of claims was the highest it has been since the third quarter of 2013.
Selection for the new judges begins today and the closing date for applications is 2 July. The role of Salaried Judge of the Employment Tribunal attracts a salary of £108,171, with a further £2,000 for London-based judges.
Candidates need at least five years’ post-qualification experience as a solicitor or barrister in England or Wales; as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, as an advocate or solicitor in Scotland; or a member of the Bar of Northern Ireland or a solicitor of the Supreme Court of Northern Ireland.
Applicants are also expected to have “current or previous substantial experience” of employment law.
According to employment judge Brian Doyle, who is president of the employment tribunal, the courts have not recruited new employment judges for more than five years. Last year he warned of an impending recruitment crisis after several judges left the bench and were not replaced.
Tribunal user groups have shared concerns over growing caseloads and claimants waiting months for hearing dates. Average disposal times, according to the latest data from the Ministry of Justice, are 26 weeks for single cases, compared with a target of 20 weeks.
When fees were introduced in 2013, there was a sharp drop in cases, so many judges were allowed to retire or able to sit in other courts. The new judges are expected to take up their positions in 2019.
“Since fees were abolished last July the number of employment tribunal cases has increased significantly but lack of resources has led to delays and postponements,” said Sarah Ozanne, an employment lawyer at CMS. “The recruitment of more judges to tackle this issue is welcome but additional administrative resource is also crucial to ensure cases are dealt with efficiently.”