Employment Tribunal Figures Show Precipitous Drop

Recent government figures have shown that the number of employer tribunal receipts has continued to fall for the third consecutive quarter.  The decline, which is associated with the introduction of employment tribunal fees in July 2013, has been the source of mounting concern amongst legal experts who fear that fees restrict access to justice.

This year there were 5,619 tribunal cases between January and March, compared with 13,739 in the same period last year, whilst the April to June quarter showed a 70% decrease of receipts year-on-year – one-third down on the previous quarter.  The number of multiple claims has also fallen by 85% year-on-year.

The figures show that sex discrimination claims have been particularly affected; only 591 claims were registered in April to June 2014 compared to 6,310 in the same period in 2013.

This week UNISON went to the Court of Appeal to challenge the introduction of the fees, but their application for judicial review was unsuccessful.  However, they have been granted leave to appeal with new evidence.  Meanwhile, Labour’s shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna confirmed that a future Labour government would abolish the fees, dubbing them as ‘unfair’.

The sharp decline can also be attributed to the April 2014 introduction of Acas, an early conciliation scheme aimed to resolve issues before they reach the tribunal stage.

General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Frances O’Grady, said: “Early conciliation through Acas is a welcome step that is helping in some cases when things go wrong at work, but it can’t explain such a large fall in the number of employment tribunals.  The fees system is a victory for Britain’s bad bosses who are getting away with harassment and abuse of workers.”

He added: “Tribunal fees are pricing workers out of justice and have created a barrier to basic rights at work.”

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Nigel is the Managing Partner and Head of Litigation and Dispute Resolution in the London office of Mackrell Turner Garrett.