On 20 September the MoJ released statistics for employment tribunal claims for the year ending 31 March 2012, showing a continued decline in tribunal claims. In total, 186,300 claims were made, a 15% fall on the previous year.
Government and employers will be encouraged by the drop in claims. However, collective claims brought by groups of employees against a single employer continue to skew the picture. The number of multiple claims (like airline working time claims and public sector equal pay claims) fell by 19%. By contrast single tribunal claims dropped only by 2%. This indicates the likelihood of a tribunal claim for SMEs and most private sector employers remains essentially unchanged.
At a time when the Government is trying make the employment tribunal system more efficient and save costs, for example by introducing tribunal fees and new rules of procedure, the increasing number of outstanding claims is notable. Despite fewer issued claims in 2011/12, the number of outstanding claims rose by 56,500, to 540,800. This is a huge number of unresolved claims. It illustrates the scale of the resourcing challenge facing employment tribunals. The number of appeals is also rising, and with the pressure on Employment Judges to dispose of so many claims despite dwindling resources, errors and appeals are surely inevitable.
Finally, whilst no doubt it was an exceptional case, the confirmation that the largest single compensation award in the year was £4.5 million in a race discrimination case is an important reminder for all employers of the risks that discrimination claims can pose.