Since the fees regime was introduced in 2013, the number of Employment Tribunal claims brought had dropped by up to 70%, with a distinct decrease particularly in discrimination claims. As a result of the Supreme Court’s decision, Employment Tribunal fees were quashed immediately.
The Supreme Court’s ruling has been met positively by potential claimants who, under the fees regime, would have had to pay tribunal fees in excess of £1000 to pursue a claim to hearing. Indeed, the number of employment tribunal claims had risen by two-thirds since the Supreme Court ruling up to the end of 2017, suggesting that employees are more inclined to take matters to tribunal, or at least start the process to apply pressure on employers to settle.
This increase is also reflected in the figures provided by Acas, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service which provides free and impartial information and advice to employers and employees on all aspects of workplace relations and employment law.
Acas, who must be notified ahead of lodging an Employment Tribunal claim, reported a significant increase in the number of employment tribunal notifications in their most recent statistics. Between April 2017 and December 2017, they revealed that they were receiving 2,200 notifications per week, an increase from 1,700 notifications per week before the Supreme Court decision.
Whilst the Government may look to introduce a revised fees regime, this is unlikely to happen in the near future, and both potential claimants and employers can expect the present ‘no fees’ regime to continue for the foreseeable future.
Whilst the quashing of Tribunal fees has been met positively by potential claimants, employers have increasingly found themselves facing an increase in the number of Employment Tribunals being lodged against them.
It is unlikely that employers will see any respite in the form of a new Employment Tribunal fees regime being implemented in the near future, but there are a number of measures that employers can take to protect themselves from the significant costs of fighting Employment Tribunal claims, in terms of both time and money.
It is often the case that issues in the workplace which lead on to Employment Tribunal claims have escalated to serious levels before the HR department is even involved. In many cases, these issues could be resolved in-house without the need for legal proceedings, provided that staff with management responsibility have been provided with appropriate training to enable them to identify potential issues and diffuse them at a much earlier stage.
By training staff to deal with disciplinary or grievance matters, as well as equality and diversity issues, businesses could reduce the number of issues resulting in Employment Tribunal claims. It would also be prudent for employers to place a renewed emphasis on ensuring that all grievances and disciplinary procedures follow company policy and take into account Acas guidance.
By taking additional steps, such as reviewing employee handbooks and ensuring that all policies are up to date, businesses could go a long way to resolving issues earlier and protecting themselves from the potential impact of fighting unnecessary Employment Tribunal claims.
In some cases, an Employment Tribunal is the only way forward, and Robinson Murphy is able to advise and represent both potential claimants and employers in respect of Employment Tribunal claims. We are happy to offer a free initial meeting to discuss the claim.