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Employment tribunal cases rise after fees scrapped

More equal pay claims are anticipated now that employment tribunal fees have been abolished

The number of employment law tribunal cases has risen by 90% between the last quarter of 2017 and the same period in 2016 (when fees were still in place), new statistics published by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) have revealed.

The data shows that 8,173 single claims were filed at employment tribunals in the three months to 31 December, while disposals and outstanding caseloads of single claims also increased by 21% and 66% respectively.

The last quarter of 2017 marks the highest number of single cases since the third quarter of 2013, before employment tribunal fees were introduced, and is the first full quarter since the fees have been abolished.

Fees were scrapped by the Supreme Court on 26 July 2017 for being ‘unlawful’.

The MoJ has cited the reversal on fees as the cause of this rise in cases.

“These statistics reveal that employers are facing an avalanche of claims as employees are no longer put off using the tribunal process,” commented Melanie Stancliffe, an employment law partner at Irwin Mitchell.

Stancliffe warned that this rise in claims will place mounting pressure on both employers and employees. “What is also clear is that this demand is increasing the costs for employers and putting tribunals, which have cut their staff, under significant pressure to the point that they are struggling to cope and case outcomes are being delayed,” she said.

Emma Bullen, HR team leader at HR and payroll software and services provider MHR, said: “With the dramatic increase in the number of employment tribunal claims since the removal of the employment tribunal fees, it is more important than ever for employers to ensure the fairness of their employee-related decisions.

“Discussion and collaboration within HR and the wider management team is essential to ensure that more than one perspective is considered before proceeding with any unclear situations.”

The statistics also outline that the number of multiple claims – filed by more than one complainant – increased by 467% between quarter four of 2016 and quarter four of 2017.

Law firm GQ|Littler put this down to “an anticipation of more large-scale equal pay claims, in particular with claimant law firms more actively marketing these to employees”.

Major supermarkets Tesco, Morrisons and Asda have all faced claims of this kind in recent times, with Tesco potentially facing up to £4 billion in fines from a group claim around equal pay launched by almost 100 employees.