Over the last few months, (in fact ever since Tribunal fees were introduced) there has been much debate about the impact of Tribunal fees on the number of claims being presented to employment tribunals and the implications of that for both employers and employees.
We have kept you updated regarding the official statistics that have continuously demonstrated that there has been a marked and significant decline in the number of claims.
Further figures published last week by HM Courts and Tribunals Service showed that for the quarter April to June, the number of claims was 71% down on the same period last year. The number of single claims received in April-June this year was a third lower than in the previous quarter (January-March). It is notable that the Early Conciliation regime, which requires complaints to be referred to Acas before a tribunal claim is presented, came into force during this period, although it is too early to tell to what extent this affected the number of tribunal claims.
Where do we go from here?
Such is the concern about the effect on access to justice that in addition to the Unison court challenge as to the legality of the fees (which is ongoing) the Law Society has announced a project to examine reforms of the employment tribunal – this has to be welcomed as one cannot believe that 70% of the cases in 2013 were spurious, accounting for the decline. Further, the Labour Party at their annual conference this month pledged to reform the employment tribunal system to make it “more streamlined and less bureaucratic” (though they have not gone as far as indicating that they would abolish fees).
Whilst we await the outcomes of all and any of these reviews and challenges, employers should not just assume that tribunal claims are a thing of the past. Employees will raise issues in other ways – internal complaints via grievances and recruitment costs of replacing disaffected employees who walk out can prove just as costly and time consuming as dealing with Tribunal claims. Adopting best practice and utilising fair and reasonable policies and procedures, applied consistently to all can mitigate those risks.
For further information and advice, please contact Helen Hughes on 01926 676 193
Askews Legal LLP – Solicitors in Coventry.