The introduction of fees for claimants in the Employment Tribunal in 2013 had an immediate and dramatic effect on the number of claims being issued. Claims fell by around 70-80% in the year following the introduction of fees and remained at this level until the Supreme Court ruled that the fees regime restricted access to justice and was therefore unlawful in July 2017.
The published figures show that there has been a considerable rise in claims since the Supreme Court’s judgment. In the year following the judgment claims increased significantly, with some types of claims increasing by 165% following the abolition of fees. However, this dramatic increase has not continued into the second year without fees, and the increase in the number of claims has slowed significantly, increasing by around a further 6% over 2017/18. Employment Tribunal claims therefore remain significantly below 2013 levels, and the number of claims this year are around 65% of the numbers seen before the introduction of fees.
The abolition of fees has had an impact on the administrative resources of the Employment Tribunal. Following the dramatic reduction in the number of claims after the introduction of fees, cuts were made to the number of judges and tribunal staff. The sudden increase in the number of claims over the past two years has led to significant strain being placed on the administrative resources of the Tribunal. Our experience is that this had led to considerable delay in Tribunals dealing with claims and the official statistics show that it now takes, on average, 8 months for the Tribunal to decide claims and many claims take far longer than this. The Tribunal has begun to recruit more judges, but it is likely to take same time to deal with the backlog that has developed since claim numbers increased.
The abolition of the fees does make it more likely that a disgruntled employee will file a claim. The most common types of claim faced by employers are claims under the working time regulations (for example, a claim for a failure to pay holiday pay) which comprise around 30% of claims brought, followed by equal pay claims (16%) and claims for unauthorised deductions from wages (which include failures to pay national minimum wage) (13%). Given that these types of claim often arise from an employer’s failure to understand their obligations with regard to legislation such as the working time regulations and national minimum wage regulations, employers may easily mitigate their risk by ensuring their employment contracts and procedures are up to date and they comply with the relevant legislation.
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