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No employment tribunal claims dismissed in 2018/19, adding to backlog

Employment tribunals could cease to be as effective if judges do not exercise their power to dismiss unlikely claims early, according to a partner at law firm GQ|Littler

Ministry of Justice (MoJ) statistics revealed that in the 94,330 cases received by employment tribunals in 2018/19, judges didn’t once use their power to dismiss claims before they reached a court hearing. This is despite having the authority to when they believe a case has no reasonable prospect of success.

This power aims to reduce the legal costs to both employee and employer and the burden on the employment tribunal system.

Raoul Parekh, a partner at GQ|Littler, said: “The fact that judges are not using their powers to dismiss claims early may reflect their sympathy towards claimants in wanting to give their case a chance rather than dismissing them out of hand. Understandably, judges will not want to restrict access to justice.

“However, the high volume of claims reaching a first hearing is contributing to the worsening backlog. This backlog of cases is prolonging the process for both employees and employers, who are being left in the dark over when their case will be resolved,” he added.

This backlog increased 39% to 26,664 last year (year to 31 March 2019), up from 19,116 the previous year.

On 30 September 2019 MoJ statistics put the number of outstanding single claim employment tribunals at 33,000. Separate research from GQ|Littler in July 2019 found that waiting times had increased for four years in a row, with the average case taking eight months (237 days) to be heard.

Parekh argued this backlog is distracting employers from more strategic management issues while they’re uncertain over the outcome of a claim, and could lead to the potential financial hardship that someone may experience while waiting for a pending compensation payment.

He added: “The figures address a lack of resources at tribunals and the need for new funding for frontline judicial staff as well as administrative staff. In the meantime it is important to find ways of improving efficiency.”