Coronavirus redundancies increase employment tribunals

The number of claims received by employment tribunals has jumped 27% in the last year to 42,392, according to employment law firm GQ Littler.

Up from 36,336 in the previous 12 months, the increase is the result of ongoing pandemic-related redundancies.

Businesses have faced a broad range of employment law risks due to the pandemic and its adverse impact on the economy.

Many businesses have had to undertake mass redundancy programmes, while others have had to completely reengineer the way their employees work as staff moved to remote working.

Speaking to HR magazine Matt Jenkin, partner and head of employment law at Moorcrofts, said the tribunals were expected during such turbulent economic times.

“Employment tribunal claims are often counter cyclical, they drop when the economy is doing well and increase in times of economic uncertainty, such as we are experiencing at the moment,” he said.

“It takes employees longer to find alternative employment if dismissed and that can fuel the number of claims.”

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Previously rare claims are also on the rise he said and include health and safety claims from employees refusing to attend work because of COVID-19 concerns.

Jenkin added: “It is important that HR reinforce the need to follow fair processes to try and avoid claims and if grievances are raised that they are taken seriously.”

Under-resourced employment tribunals may also struggle to cope as they were facing backlog prior to the pandemic.

The average wait time for single claims of unfair dismissal and discrimination is now 38 weeks. GQ Litter said this suggests that if someone were to put a claim in for this month, on average they will not have their case heard until September 2021, or perhaps even longer.

Philip Cameron, partner at GQ Littler said: “Unfortunately, the process of redundancies, which often create employment claims, is far from over. This stage of the lockdown will create its own challenges for employee relations.

“The pandemic has created HR challenges for employers that they have never faced before. Whilst employers have often met this huge logistical challenge well it is not without a cost.”