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Age discrimination claims increase by 79%, Tribunal Service statistics show

The Age and Employment Network (TAEN) has expressed concern over a sharp rise in the number of age discrimination claims and warns the figure is likely to continue rising.

Figures published yesterday (30 June) by The Tribunal Service in its Annual Statistics for 2010/11 show a 'dramatic' rise in the number of age discrimination claims lodged with the service.

The figures show that, in the year up to 31 March 2011, 6,800 age discrimination claims were filed, a rise of 31% per cent on the previous year's number. Since 2008-09, the overall number of claims has risen by 79%.

During 2010/11, Employment Tribunals disposed of 3,700 claims. Of these just 2% (90 claims in total) were successful at Tribunal. Of the remaining 98 % 1500 were withdrawn before coming to a hearing,

Acas conciliated in 35% of the claims, 3% were dismissed at a preliminary hearing, 9% were unsuccessful at a Tribunal hearing and 1% was subject to a default judgement.

Chris Ball, Chief Executive of TAEN - The Age and Employment Network said: "These figures show a dramatic rise in the number of age discrimination claims in the past two years and emphasise the importance of employers becoming more age-aware.

"Against a backdrop of a number of high-profile ageism cases, the ending of the default retirement age and rising levels of redundancy and unemployment, many more people believe that they are being discriminated against. These figures relate only to claims and the majority will not succeed in tribunal, but the sheer numbers suggest that they can't all be wrong.

"With further job losses expected in the public sector and the lingering idea that older workers are a burden, we would not be surprised to see these figures continue to rise.

"Employers must have appropriate policies in place to deal with issues like redundancies, recruitment and pay. In all of these areas, age should be completely out of the equation."

The news comes days after a survey from international law firm Pinsent Masons, revealed just 3% of employers are satisfied with the Tribunal system as it stands, a result further compounded by 97% of businesses revealing that they feel the current system is weighted in the claimants' favour.

The report comes as BIS and the Tribunals Service have launched a consultation to improve the way in which workplace disputes are resolved.

A key area for reform highlighted by the survey is the need for increased Tribunal powers to weed out weak claims, as 81% of respondents reported having received a claim which they perceived as a 'try on' and 78% regularly receive such claims.

As well as highlighting the difficulties that employers encounter with the system, the survey also looked to identify how it can be improved. One problem is the length of time that Tribunals can take, for which 87% respondents in the survey support more claims being heard by a judge alone. The other big bugbear for employers is the lack of regional consistency. 81% of respondents felt that Tribunals were inconsistent between the regions, with 58% believing they were inconsistent even in the same region.

Chris Booth, head of the Employment Group at Pinsent Masons comments: "This report is an important signal to the level of dissatisfaction that exists with the current Tribunal system but also how the system can be best improved to benefit employers and claimants alike. Change is clearly needed and these findings show just how this can be brought about."

This report surveyed 109 respondents from leading UK employers, that together employ over 500,000 employees in the UK, between 10th March and 8th April 2011.