Further decrease in employment tribunal claims

The annual report published by the senior president of tribunals has highlighted the key trends that have emerged across employment law over the past 12 months.

Victoria MitchellBy Victoria Mitchell, Farleys Solicitors.

 

The previous year has been an interesting one for HR and employment law with the implementation of various pieces of legislation inevitably impacting on employment tribunals and employment appeal tribunals.

Perhaps the most significant of these changes was the introduction of fees which appears to have affected the number of claims reported.

Statistics for the past 12 months reveal a 20 per cent decrease in the number of applications received by the employment tribunal following the enforcement of the fee regime. Consequently this has significantly reduced the number of applications made to the employment appeal tribunal by a staggering 55 per cent, a substantial drop in comparison to the previous year.

Along with the decline in employment claims the report also drew attention to the steady decline of people seeking professional legal representation; the figure having fallen from 60 to 40 per cent over the past five years. Although the statistics do not show whether their has been an increase in the number of people electing to represent themselves, it would be natural to assume given the figures stated in the report along with cuts to legal funding that this is likely to be the case.

Unsurprisingly, given the absence of professional representation the report drew attention to an emerging trend in claim duration, particularly the increase in time for employment tribunal hearings involving people choosing to forgo legal instruction. In turn it would seem that this appears to have had a counter productive impact on the intended effect of the fees; actually creating more work for judges due to the demand for additional resources required to assist litigants.

Interestingly, the report also hints that without the fees, due to the limited resources of the employment appeal tribunal, they would have been unable to adequately cope with appeals. Therefore it could be argued that the introduction of fees to lodge a claim at employment tribunal has operated as a work load management system for the EAT. The claims process itself has undergone further reform over the last year, with the ACAS early conciliation scheme becoming a mandatory step for those wishing lodge a claim before the employment tribunal. Whilst the objective of this was to encourage out of court resolution between parties it is difficult to say as to whether it has fulfilled its intended effect.