Employment Tribunals – increases and delays due to Covid-19

Written by Kevin Murphy
11 August, 2020

Coronavirus Help | Tales from the Tribunal • August 11, 2020

Employment Tribunals – increases and delays due to Covid-19

Written by Kevin Murphy

Employment Tribunal Claims Incease

It is fair to say that there has been steady increase in Tribunal Claims since the abolition of fees in July 2017.  We have previously detailed this increase but cases brought by single claimants increased again in the first quarter of 2020 by 18% (year to year comparison).

Although we are still waiting for the official figures employment lawyers are all reporting that they have seen an increase in the number of cases being issued in the Tribunals.  The latest unemployment figures show that approximately 730,000 people lost their jobs during the months of March – July, the largest decrease in a decade, so an increase in Tribunal Claims is unsurprising.

There are two points of concern, firstly the complexity of the claims being brought is also increasing.  Employers who have carried out a short service dismissal (dismissing someone who has less than 2 years service) are finding Claimants are relying upon the many exceptions to this rule in order to challenge the decision of the employer.  Secondly, although the increase is in unemployment is large, it is anticipated that there will be an even greater increase when the Furlough Scheme comes to an end.  If the current trend is correct, then we can anticipate a substantial increase in the number of claims being brought in the Employment Tribunals.

Delays in dealing with Employment Tribunal Claims

An increase in claims is concerning at the best of times, claims are distracting for business owners and managers, can cause sleepless nights and consume management hours and energy.  The stress of an Employment Tribunal claim will only be exacerbated by lengthy delays.  In the first quarter of 2020 single claimant cases were up by 19% on the same quarter in 2019.

When the Government Locked Down the country the Tribunal Service fell under the same guidance.  Any Tribunals that were due to be heard during Lockdown, were converted to a Preliminary Hearing by phone to have them relisted, this has obviously caused significant delays.  Even before the lockdown there was a backlog of cases of approximately 36,000 cases, with those that have to be relisted due to Lockdown the Tribunal Service is facing significant delays.

The latest statistics show that the Tribunal Service backlog is increasing by about 1% per week.  It is anticipated that this will only increase as the Furlough Scheme winds down.

The backlog is that large that in some Tribunal regions cases are being listed in 2022, however most areas are listing for 2021.

What can employers do to reduce the risk of an Employment Tribunal claim?

In the current circumstances it is easy to worry or panic, the advice that we have to give is not to do either, we acknowledge that that is easier said than down in some cases.

Our one piece of advice has to be….TAKE ADVICE! Speak to us to find the best way to resolve those impending issues and act within the bounds of the law.  Employment Law Solutions can help you manoeuvre through the minefield of legislation to mitigate the risks of an Employment Tribunal claim and help to reduce the risk of those sleepless nights, allowing you to focus on what you do best….running your business.

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