The latest statistics show that the number of single claims to Employment Tribunals has increased by a whopping 64%.
Since the second quarter of 2014/15, the number of single claims has been ‘relatively stable’ with approximately 4,200 claims made per quarter. However, between July and September 2017, it rose to 7,042 claims.
The increase in the number of claims is thought to be because of the Supreme Court’s decision to quash Employment Tribunal fees in July 2017.
Access to Employment Tribunals was always free until July 2013 when fees were introduced for those bringing a claim. Fees varied in accordance with the type of claim and whether they are brought by a single claimant or by a group, but ranged between £390 and £1200.
It was well-published that the introduction of the fees resulted in a dramatic fall in the number of cases being brought before Employment Tribunals. The fees were heavily criticised by trade unions and they launched legal action. It reached the highest court in the UK, the Supreme Court, in July 2017 who concluded that fees should be immediately quashed.
Since then, the government has begun the refund process. So if you were ordered by a tribunal to reimburse the fees of an employee who brought a claim against you and you have evidence that demonstrates this, you can apply for a refund.
Warning to employers
It’s a timely reminder that HR and Employment Law should be a priority and not something that is left to chance. In particular, it’s important to think about whether your employment and management practices can withstand intense scrutiny.
Some key areas to consider include:
- Contracts of Employment – review your contracts to make sure all your staff are on the right contract and you understand the obligations for each type of contract. For example, just because it’s a zero hours contract does not mean that the worker has no rights!
- Employee Handbook – make sure that you have clear and robust HR policies and procedures in place which comply with current legislation and best practice. The law is not static so review your Employee Handbook frequently.
- Training – it’s essential that all your managers and supervisors have been suitably trained in HR and Employment Law matters. Training should not be a one-off but as part of a continual process.
- Legal advice – HR and Employment Law can be a minefield for employers, so seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity when dealing with difficult workplace challenges including grievances, disciplinary, dismissal, redundancy, discrimination and TUPE.
What does the future hold?
It remains to be seen whether we will see a continuing rise in the number of single claims and whether they return to pre-fees level.
But have we definitely seen the back of fees? Well, Lord Chancellor, David Lidington, has indicated that the government intend to reintroduce some type of fee to access Employment Tribunals. This is mainly to cover costs and to avoid frivolous or vexatious claims, but as of yet, it’s not known when this will come into effect and how much the fees will be.
We will keep you up to date with the developments as they happen.