As the latest quarterly statistics are about to be published by the Ministry of Justice, it is probably safe to say that most are expecting it will reveal a substantial increase in the number of claims being lodged in the Employment Tribunal.
It is now over four months since the Supreme Court abolished Employment Tribunals fees* but the December publication will be the first official report to indicate how much of an impact the decision has had on the actual number of cases that the Employment Tribunal has to hear.
Unofficially, there have been reports from individual Tribunal offices that the number of claims being received has increased by as much 75 to 100%.
If that same level of increase is reflected in the official national statistics it will mean that there is going to be a great deal of strain on the Employment Tribunal system, particularly as there has been been a marked reduction in the number of employment judges over the four years when fees had drastically cut the number of claims.
Going forwards, the increased number of claims and the impact on the Employment Tribunal system is going to have important practical consequences for all those responsible for managing employees in the workplace.
There is clearly an increased risk of claims being made, which will mean that the first priority is to take steps to ensure that the risk is reduced as much as possible.
Five steps to take now:
- Auditing current practice – the fact that claims have been so rare in recent years may have led to a degree of complacency.
- If necessary, re-introducing staff policies and procedures to raise awareness.
- Consider providing training, particularly on equality issues, harassment and bullying.
- Full written records should be made in relation to all investigations, in preparation for any potentially delayed Tribunal hearings.
- Disciplinary officers should be given further guidance in relation to their responsibilities and in particular, their potential role as a witness in Employment Tribunal proceedings.
For many it will be this last step which will be the most difficult. The prospect of having to give evidence can be daunting for anyone, particularly if they have never been involved in Employment Tribunal proceedings before. Of course, it’s natural for people to feel anxious about attending and giving evidence at an Employment Tribunal, which is why we have created a number of support materials for our clients, helping them and their employees prepare for all types of employment tribunals.
View our video and PDF guide on giving evidence at an Employment Tribunal, which have been created to help you navigate what will happen on the day and provide you and your employees with reassurance, as you prepare for attendance. The guides walk you through the full process, from arriving at a Tribunal to the eventual conclusion of the case, while commentary provides practical guidance as to how evidence will be given and what questions to expect.
* R (on the application of UNISON) v Lord Chancellor  UKSC 51