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The government’s changes to employment law are designed to reduce the number of Employment Tribunal claims faced by employers.  The Employment Tribunal statistics for the final quarter of the year from 1 Jan-31 March 2013 were released on 20 June 2013.  This article considers the key figures, in particular to see if there is any evidence of a decline in Employment Tribunal claims.

Employment Tribunal cases

There has been a three per cent increase in the number of claims received, from 186,331 in 2011-2012 to 191,541 in 2012-2013.  Of the claims accepted in 2012-2013, 57,737 of them were lodged between January and March 2013, a 36 per cent increase on the same period in the previous year.

The outstanding caseload of the Employment Tribunal continued to increase by 13 per cent on the previous year. The number of single claims disposed of fell by ten per cent, although there was a six per cent increase in the number of disposals for multiple claims (where the claimant brings claims under different areas of law, e.g. unfair dismissal and sex discrimination).  This may suggest that Tribunal resources are being somewhat stretched.

Automatic unfair dismissal

The Employment Tribunal statistics show that unfair dismissal claims increased by six per cent, from 46,326 to 49,036.  The law was changed last year, meaning that any employee who wanted to bring a claim for unfair dismissal must now have been continuously employed for a period of two years if their employment began after 6 April 2012.  Prior to that date, the qualifying period of service was one year.  It seems, therefore, that the increase in service has not yet had the effect of reducing the number of claims for unfair dismissal.  It remains to be seen whether there will be an increase in the number of automatic unfair dismissal claims and multiple jurisdiction claims, where the claimant does not need two years’ continuous service to bring a claim in response to this change in the law.

Redundancy consultation

The number of claims for failure to inform and consult in a redundancy situation has risen by 39 per cent, from 7,984 in 2011-2012 to 11,075 in 2012-2013.

Since the Employment Tribunal statistics were produced, the minimum period of consultation for collective redundancies – where 100 or more dismissals are proposed – has reduced from 90 to 45 days.  This may have an effect on the statistics for the next quarter, with the figures likely to drop.

Employers should note the recent decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) in the Woolworths case, USDAW and others v Ethel Austin Ltd (in administration) and others.  In that case, the EAT heldthat if employers are proposing to make 20 or more employees redundant within a period of 90 days or fewer across a “business as a whole”, the requirement to consult is triggered.  This is a crucial change and, when determining whether the obligations are triggered, employers will need to consider the number of redundancies across their entire business, rather than at any one establishment.

Age discrimination cases

An examination of other areas of law revealed the following changed from 2011/2012:

  • Sex discrimination claims increased by 74 percent;
  • Age discrimination claims fell by 24 per cent, from 3,715 to 2,818;
  • Equal pay claims fell by 18 per cent;
  • Claims for failure to inform and consult on a TUPE transfer decreased by 39 per cent.

Introduction of Employment Tribunal fees

On 29 July 2013, fees are due to be introduced in the Employment Tribunal.  It will be interesting to see what the impact will be on the number and the nature of claims issued in the Employment Tribunal.  The government’s hope is that the issue fee and the fee for hearings may encourage claimants to look for alternative methods of resolving their disputes.

The Ministry of Justice will publish more detailed statistics on Employment Tribunals and the EAT on 26 September 2013.

If you have any questions about Employment Tribunal statistics, comments or have had any experience of the issues raised in this article we would like to hear from you.  Please contact our Employment Law team or call us on 0117 904 6000.