According to the statistics produced by the Ministry of Justice, there has been a significant increase in the number of Claims brought in Employment Tribunals this year.
In the period from April to June 2018, the number of single claims (made by a sole employee) has more than doubled (up 165%) to 10,996 comparing to the figures from April to June of the last year. As to the multiple claims, the increase is even more dramatic. Multiple claims refer to the claims made by two or more individuals against a common employer; such claims are processed and managed together. The receipts of multiple claims from April to June this year quadrupled reaching 42,700 (up 344%) in comparison to the same quarter of 2017.
Such an increase in claim numbers is associated with a Supreme Court decision of 26 July 2017 to abolish Tribunal fees with an intention to provide equal access to justice to everyone. One can agree that, generally, employers have economic advantage over employees. As a result, now employees are able to pursue their claims without incurring Tribunal costs. This is especially effective for low value claims, which before the fees abolishment were rendered futile or irrational to bring considering the Tribunal fees one would have to pay.
Tribunal Fee Refund Scheme
Ministry of Justice states that from October 2017 to 30 June 2018, the number of applications for Employment Tribunal refund payment has reached 14,500. The Ministry of Justice has made 12,400 refunds with a total value of 10,615,000.00 from the launch of the ET Refund Scheme. As to the last quarter from April to June 2018, 5,100 refund applications were received, and 4,700 refund payments were made with a total value of £4,018,300.
The Scheme was introduced in October 2017. While the majority of applicants are Claimants (employees), reimbursement can also be sought by Respondents (employers).
Delays in Processing
Though lodging a Claim with a Tribunal became significantly easier, increase in the number of Claims caused a backlog and delays in processing of Claims. As Tribunals remain under-stuffed, the parties suffer long delays in correspondence, listing of Hearings and last-minute Hearing cancellations. It can be highly frustrating to all parties, as sometimes it can take a year gap between a Preliminary and a Full Merits Hearing, simply because Tribunals are extremely busy.
It is obvious that as time passes parties’ recollection of events is fading. Also, if parties are represented, they are incurring additional legal costs as a result of procedural delays. To tackle this issue, the Judicial Appointments Commission started recruitment of Judges this summer. In fact, this is the first time in the last five years that there is a need in recruitment of fee-paid or salaried employment judges. According to The Judicial Office Communications Team, some employment judges were deployed or cross-assigned for part of their time to the county court or other tribunals.
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