The most recent figures released by the employment tribunal show a notable increase in tribunal claims since the fees were abolished. The 2017/2018 (April 2017 to March 2018) figures show a dramatic increase against 2016/2017 in respect of:
- unfair dismissal claims – up from 12,038 to 17,384 (a 44% rise);
- unauthorised deductions of wages – up from 9,152 to 23,864;
- equal pay – up from 10,467 to 35,117.
The trend in low value wages claims was predictable given many previous low value claims would have been put off by the £160 issue fee and £230 hearing fee (potentially costing more than the value of the claim itself). The equal pay increase is as a result of the widely publicised supermarket claims.
This begs the question as to whether the tribunal claims are on their way back up to pre-2013 levels. Our prediction is not. In 2013, the level of claims had reached 200,000 per year in total. However, the dramatic drop from 2014 onwards was not just related to the introduction of fees. This also reflects the 2012 change to require longer continuous service (two years) before an ex-employee can claim unfair dismissal. Also, the introduction of the mandatory ACAS early conciliation in 2014 means many claims are settled prior to reaching the tribunal. Finally, the cap on unfair dismissal compensatory awards, being the lower of 52 weeks’ gross pay or the statutory cap (currently £83,682), limits the value of this claim for many and makes settlements more likely.
Locally, we understand that in Newcastle, whilst the number of monthly claims is double the number received per month in Spring 2017, it is still 25% down on the pre-2013 figures. We predict this trend to continue.