Each quarter, HM Courts and Tribunals Service publishes statistics regarding the number of employment tribunal claims as well as the different types of claims. The most recent statistics cover the period from January – March 2021.
During this period, a total of 9,100 single claims were received by the employment tribunal which equated to a decrease of 13% from the same period in 2020 and a tapering off following the large rise seen in the period of from September – December 2020. However, on average, there has been a rise in single claims over recent quarters which is believed to largely be due to the increased amount of unemployment and changes of working conditions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are currently 44,000 outstanding cases, with the figure continuing to rise.
Interestingly, the mean age of a claim at disposal was identified as being 42 weeks; this is an increase of 5 weeks when being compared to the same period in 2020. It is clear that claims are taking longer to get through the tribunal system, and it can be difficult to pinpoint the reason for that. Causes for the delay may include the effect of the pandemic, as well as claims being more complex.
When considering the statistics for multiple claims, this can be more difficult to report on. This is because they can be skewed by a high number of claims against a single employer. Statistics show that multiple claims (where multiple Claimants bring claims against one Respondent) rose by 14% in January to March 2021 when compared to the same period in 2020. The trends appear to demonstrate that these rises will continue due to the effects of the pandemic, and this could increase further as claims start to come through on the back of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
As employers will be aware, the decision was made to abolish employment tribunal fees from 26 July 2017. Following this, the ET refund scheme was introduced as a phased implementation scheme in October 2017 which allowed for employees, employers or representatives who paid Employment Tribunal fees between 29th July 2014 and 26th July 2017 to receive a refund. Since the introduction of the scheme, a total of 22,000 applications for refunds have been received and 23,000 payments have been made. The total value of these refunds has been identified as £18,527,000 as of 31 March 2021. Currently the cumulative number of payments is higher than the number of applications because online applications that are processed without manual input are not included in these figures. The figures will eventually be updated to include both online and manual application figures.
It is an interesting to consider the impact that the abolition of tribunal fees has had on the number of claims being brought in the employment tribunal. Unsurprisingly, the number of tribunal claims has increased which is to be expected where there are no fees to be paid by a Claimant. It begs the question whether tribunal fees would encourage Claimants to be more considered with their claims or even result in fewer claims being brought.
The increase in tribunal claims is a sharp reminder to employers to exercise caution and ensure that companies follow process where required and also clearly document the steps taken and any meetings or discussions which take place during the process.