Tribunal claims face five-month wait for first hearing

Employers are waiting up to five months for tribunal hearing dates to be set, it has emerged.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) revealed that the median time for claims, from acceptance to a first hearing, was 18.1 weeks for a single claim and 18.5 weeks across all claims.

Firms in London had the longest wait, averaging 20 weeks, while Wales and the South West had the least – averaging 17.9 weeks for all claims.

David Frost, director-general at the BCC, described the existing tribunal service as not working fairly for business.

“The process is too long, currently taking an average of five months to get a date, which simply gives disgruntled employees more time to find grievances with their employer,” he said.

“This also has a knock-on effect on the morale of other workers, and costs the company more in legal fees. In short, it’s poorly administered, too complicated and too costly, so the next government must make reform a priority.”

Stephen Simpson, employment editor at XpertHR, said: “It’s clear that tribunals are also continuing to have to deal with numerous redundancy claims.

“Employment tribunal statistics published in September 2009 showed that claims for unfair dismissal, redundancy pay and failure to inform and consult on redundancies were all up, and this is something that XpertHR is continuing to investigate in its analysis of tribunal cases, particularly in relation to claims that unfair redundancy selection processes have been used by employers. The delay in having their claims considered will be particularly keenly felt by redundant claimants, who may be struggling financially or who may not have found another job in the meantime.”

Last summer, Personnel Today reported that pilot tests of judicial mediation – an alternative approach to setting employment disputes before reaching court – had been described as very positive in the Tribunals Service Annual Report and Accounts.

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