Statistics published today by the UK Ministry of Justice for the period of April to June 2014 show a further drop in employment tribunal claims. These latest figures confirm a sustained reduction in the number of employment tribunal claims lodged since the fees regime was introduced last year, but also demonstrates that compulsory early conciliation (EC), which has applied since 6 May this year, is impacting the number of claims. Today’s statistics appear to add further support to judicial review proceedings being pursued by UNISON, which seek to challenge the impact and fairness of the tribunal fees regime.

The statistics: a summary

The statistics are published every quarter. The figures show a 70% reduction in ‘single’ claims received in April to June 2014 compared to the same period in 2013.  ‘Single claims’ are those made by a sole employee/worker, which can be contrasted with ‘multiple claims’, where two or more people bring proceedings arising out of the same facts, usually against the same employer.  Single claims provide the more reliable gauge of trends in the Employment Tribunal.  

The number of multiple claims was 4,748 which related to 453 multiple claim cases.  The number of multiple claim cases has similarly been falling, from around 1,500 in the comparable period last year, prior to the introduction of fees.  

Overall this equates to an 82% drop in claims per quarter as between April – June 2013 and the same the period in 2014.

ACAS Early Conciliation

Recent statistics from ACAS suggest that the number of new EC cases per month is 6,500.  As single claims in the April to June period amounted to 3,792, and ACAS statistics say 16.5% of EC cases settled at EC, this suggests that a very high proportion of EC cases are not pursued to tribunal.  This would seem to be further evidence that the fees regime is having a significant downward impact on the level of claims.

Judicial review proceedings

UNISON is pursuing judicial review proceedings against the Government in which it alleges that the fees regime breaches the EU principle of effectiveness (by making it excessively difficult to enforce employment rights), and is indirectly discriminatory.  Although UNISON’s arguments were rejected by the High Court following a hearing last year, the union is appealing that decision. UNISON will doubtless be hoping to rely on the latest statistics to shore up its case for the fees regime to be quashed.  In fact, the Court of Appeal is hearing an application next week from UNISON to adduce fresh evidence (presumably including the claims statistics from October 2013 onwards) and an application from the Equality and Human Rights Commission for permission to intervene.  

Separate proceedings for judicial review are pending in the Scottish court system but are currently stayed pending the outcome of UNISON’s case. 

Government review

The Government has committed to keeping the fees and remission schemes under review, details of which can be expected anytime. 

Labour party plans for reform

The pressure on the Government has been increased this week by an announcement by the shadow business secretary that, “his party would ensure affordability was not a barrier to employees seeking redress from their bosses”. No detail has been forthcoming but this is a clear indication that Labour is committed to reform of the fees regime.