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UK HR E-briefing - New data shows doubling in employment claims since fees abolished

  • United Kingdom
  • Employment law - HR E-Brief


Statistics published by the Government today suggest that individual employment tribunal claims may have more than doubled since the requirement for workers to pay fees to bring claims was quashed by the Supreme Court in the summer.

The figures released today show the number of claims brought in August and September this year, after fees were abolished, as well as data for earlier periods going back to 2012. The data reveals that 5684 new ‘single’ ET claims were lodged in August and September 2017 (ie claims brought by a single claimant). This is more than double the 2768 average number of single claims brought in the same months over the previous 3 years (2851 in 2016; 2688 in 2015 and 2765 in 2014).

When the Supreme Court quashed the Employment Tribunal fees regime in July it was clear that claims would rise significantly. It seems, however, that claim numbers have not rebounded to pre-fee levels: claim numbers would have to have trebled, rather than doubled, to reach the levels we saw in August and September 2012 when 8585 new claims were lodged. This is not altogether surprising. A partial explanation for the difference in claim numbers is that, after fees were brought in, the government introduced the ACAS early conciliation scheme to encourage workers and employers to settle workplace disputes without going to tribunal. This is likely to have had at least some impact on the number of people who choose to take their claim to a tribunal. It is also possible that the government’s recent decision to publish all employment tribunal judgments online is leading some employers to settle threatened claims early, rather than fight and risk reputational damage from a warts-and-all judgment that airs the claimant’s complaints in detail.

In October the Justice Secretary David Liddington said the Government is looking at reintroducing employment tribunal fees in some shape or form. If and when a new fee regime is introduced claim numbers are likely to drop again to some extent. It is difficult to imagine that they will plummet to the levels we saw after the original fee regime took effect, however, as any revised scheme will need to be more carefully calibrated so as to avoid renewed accusations that access to justice is being barred. There will need to be new legislation, approved by Parliament, before any new fees can take effect and, although it is very unusual for regulations to be blocked, the Government’s lack of majority, and the threat of a further legal challenge, mean ministers will have to work much harder this time around to justify any replacement regime, taking more care to analyse the likely impacts of any proposals. This, combined with the demands on Parliamentary and civil servants time created by Brexit, means it is unlikely any new fees regime could feasibly take effect before 2019.

To help those with responsibility for managing employment tribunal claims and disciplinary or grievance issues to understand the implications of fees being abolished we are running a series of half-day briefings aimed at employers, starting early next year. Further details can be found here.