Following the Supreme Court’s decision back in July 2017, which concluded that the Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal Fees Order 2013 was unlawful and that the fees set out therein should no longer be charged, the Employment Tribunal has seen a significant rise in the number of claims submitted. The Ministry of Justice have now released statistics for the period from October to December 2017 which show a staggering increase of 90% in claims (not including those where the claim is made by two or more Claimants) compared to the same quarter in 2016.
So, in practice, what does this mean for your business going forward? Well, first and foremost, without the protection of the fees which gave some Claimant’s pause for thought, the risk of finding yourself on the receiving end of a claim is now unfortunately more likely. Whilst one would hope that frivolous, vexatious and misconceived claims could be identified and dissuaded at the Early Conciliation stage the reality is that this will not happen in all cases and the more trivial and low value claims are also increasingly likely to be progressed.
The increase in the number of claims is also likely to put the employment tribunal system itself under significant pressure, in the short term at very least, given that both the judicial and administrative resources were pared down to reflect the reduction in caseload over recent years. As such, those claims that are lodged, for the foreseeable future, are likely to be subject to delay in respect of both hearings and the disposal of applications with more complex, multi-day hearings being the worst affected. Businesses should also hold off that sigh of relief when the deadline for claims to be submitted has been and gone as it may well be that it is just another casualty of the tribunal administrative back log.
Here at EML, we hate to be the harbinger of bad news, but there is a silver lining! With the support of our HR and H&S experts, you are already taking the first step to protecting your business. Remember, whilst there are no guarantees in life, other than death and taxes (as the old adage goes!), the weaker the claim, the less likely it is to be brought in the first place. Therefore, when in doubt, pick up the phone and we will be happy to guide you through the minefield that is Employment Law best practice. Now may also be the time to think about the added protection offered by an associated insurance product which EML can facilitate through our partnership with Albion Legal.