The abolition of Employment Tribunal (ET) fees in July this year seems to have resulted in a widely-expected – and significant – increase in ET claims, according to UK Government statistics published this week.
ET fees were in force from 29 July 2013 to 26 July 2017, at which time the Supreme Court declared the existing fees regime to be unlawful and it was struck down. All fees paid by users of the ET system during the 4-year period will have to be refunded by the Government and that bill is estimated at £32 million.
ET claims can be submitted by individuals (“single” claims) or groups (“multiple” claims).
Single ET claims received in the quarter July – September 2017 went up by 64% compared to the same quarter in 2016.
The government data shows that, since the July to September quarter of 2014, single claim receipts have remained relatively stable, with around 4,200 claims in that quarter each year.
However, 2017 has broken the mould because the same quarter has seen an increase to 7,042 single claims.
The fees regime meant that workers often had to pay up to £1,200 just to get their case heard.
In the Supreme Court, this was accepted as a significant barrier to justice. As the cost of bringing a claim often exceeded the amount in dispute, for many workers, the economic risks of proceeding outweighed the potential benefits.
The disappearance of ET fees means that workers are much more likely to raise claims if they cannot resolve their dispute directly with their employer.
It remains to be seen whether these increases will be maintained across future quarterly figures but our expectation is that they will be maintained and may indeed increase further.
In the light of these figures, as an employer, you need to make sure that your Employment Law systems are as robust as possible.
Now would be a good time to review your employment contracts, policies and procedures, so that the risks to your business from a disgruntled employee making an ET claim are minimised as far as possible.
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