Data obtained by law firm Nockolds Solicitors under a Freedom of Information request showed that just 883 out of 9,722 single employment claims (9%) were heard at tribunal in the first quarter of 2019/20, down from 1,179 out of 3,714 (32%) in the first quarter of 2014/15.
However, the proportion of claims that were successful at tribunal increased from 44% in the first quarter of 2014/15 to 50% in the first quarter of 2019/20.
Nockolds Solicitors said that the abolition of employment tribunal fees in July 2017 has led to a further increase in claims, many of which are likely poor quality and would not have been brought if claimants incurred fees. Fees of up to £1,200 were introduced in 2013 to try to curb the number of malicious claims.
According to Nockolds Solicitors, employees who believe they are going to lose a claim will often push for an early settlement and use the claims process to apply pressure to employers. Employers also often push for an early settlement, even when they are likely to win at tribunal, because of the unrecoverable costs of mounting a defence.
Gary Smith, a partner at Nockolds Solicitors, said: “We are seeing the volume of claims and hearings edging up to the level last seen before the introduction of fees. Many of these new claims are probably weak or vexatious and would not have been launched if the claimants had to pay fees.”
Kimberley Wallace, senior HR consultant at EmployAssist HR, told HR magazine that when it comes to supporting employees who are seeking to go to tribunal HR should ensure that any requests from the tribunal process are complied with.
“HR should ensure that if the individual remains in employment while taking action against their employer, they are not subject to any victimisation from management or colleagues," said Wallace.
"To avoid tribunals altogether HR should stay informed about and properly manage any potential employee relations issues at an early stage,” she suggested.
Wallace recommended early-stage intervention and management to reduce the need for more formal processes and the later risk of tribunals arising from disciplinaries and grievances.