The Ministry of Justice has published the provisional tribunal statistics for October to December 2017. 

This is something which happens every three months, but due to the much publicised fact that Employment Tribunal Fees are now a thing of the past, the most recent publication has been eagerly anticipated. It makes gloomy reading for employers, although should not come as an enormous surprise.

Key figures are:

  • Single ET claims received have increased by 90%
  • Single ET claims disposed of have increased by 21%
  • The backlog of single ET claims has increased by 66%

In addition, multiple ET claims received have increased by 467% however this is not quite as worrying as it first appears, and is down to a historical statistical anomaly.  

Also significant is that, from the launch of the ET refund scheme in October 2017 to 31 December 2017, 4,800 applications for refunds were received, and 3,400 payments with a total value of £2.8m were made.

What does this mean on a practical level?

While Tribunal fees were applicable, claimants would have to pay up to £250 to issue a claim, and then up to £1,200 for their claim to be heard by a tribunal. This meant that making a claim was simply out of reach financially for some claimants, and for others, was considered not to be worth the risk. For a third group, those with low value wages claims, who may have been claiming less than the fees required to issue a claim, pursuit of a claim was simply not financially sensible.

These barriers have now simply disappeared. Claimants do not have to pay anything to bring a claim, hence the sharp rise in numbers doing exactly that. Generally, the majority of employees do not relish the prospect of taking their employer to a tribunal, and there are ways in which employers can address problems in order to avoid claims being issued against them. This does not necessarily mean avoiding taking a robust approach with employees. Walking on eggshells and trying to avoid upset can sometimes lead to bigger problems in the future. Essentially, by following best practice, treating employees fairly and consistently, managing expectations, and ensuring that processes are followed transparently, employers are more likely to head off problems before they escalate.

It is also important to remember that, although the obvious expense to any employer being taken to a tribunal is the legal fees and the risk of losing in litigation, management and HR time spent in defending claims can also be particularly costly. As such, if employers are in any doubt at all with regard to handling an internal situation correctly, they should not hesitate to obtain legal advice to ensure that they are doing everything that they can to avoid having a claim brought against them.


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Author: Arwen Makin

After studying law at Cambridge University, Arwen trained at leading national law firm Mills & Reeve, qualifying into their employment team in 2002. Arwen has extensive employment law experience, having advised both employers and employees on a wide range of employment issues. Prior to joining ESP she previously worked for a number of years providing advice and representation to both trade unions and their members, and has a particular expertise in the education sector. Due to her diverse experience she is ideally placed to give advice in relation to professional conduct and regulatory matters.

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