There is strong anecdotal evidence that the number of single claims issued in Employment Tribunals has started to increase significantly since fees were abolished on 26 July 2017 and that some claims, such as those relating to unlawful deduction from wages, are returning from the brink of extinction.
It appears as though the declaration made by the Supreme Court that both Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal fees are unlawful has had an immediate impact on the number of claims being issued across many parts of the country.
Anecdotal reports from Tribunals around the country are that, even in the short period since the abolition of fees, which includes August, traditionally a very quiet month, numbers of claims have gone up by, in some cases, more than 100%.
There are no official figures available yet. The Ministry of Justice publish quarterly statistics and the most recent are for the period April to June 2017. Once the July – September 2017 statistics become available we will have a much better idea of the scale of the increase but data over a much longer period will be needed before we can analyse whether the numbers of claims has or is likely to reach pre fee levels.
There are also growing concerns amongst employment law practitioners that if the numbers of claims do significantly increase, the Employment Tribunal Service will be unable to cope with demand and delays will become commonplace. The Ministry of Justice reduced the number of administrative staff following the dramatic and sustained fall in the number of claims and halted the recruitment of judges to replace those lost to retirement and to other jurisdictions. We are already experiencing serious delays in getting correspondence relating to on-going claims dealt with in a timely manner and even, in some cases, having hearing dates cancelled at the last minute. This could get worse in the short term.
If the anecdotal evidence about the increase in claims is reflective of a general and long lasting increase, the government will have to provide funds to enable the tribunals to undertake a recruitment drive and to deal with the increase in volume of work. In the meantime – be patient is the best advice we can give!