Employment tribunal backlog gets worse

The Law Society has warned about the increasing backlog in employment tribunal claims and the toll this is taking on employers and employees.

Gavel with employment written on it, representing employment law


Spiralling tribunal backlogs are leaving employees and businesses in limbo for far too long, the Law Society of England and Wales has warned.

The latest data for December 2022 shows 50,518 outstanding cases compared to 47,041 in December 2021, with the backlog rising steadily month after month.

“The Employment Tribunal backlog means employees and employers aren’t getting the swift resolution they should,” said Law Society president Lubna Shuja.

“This means people and businesses are facing prolonged periods of uncertainty, which is likely to take a high toll both personally and financially, with the cost-of-living crisis hitting individuals and businesses hard.”

The Law Society says that since Employment Tribunal fees were abolished in 2017, the number of claims has increased, but this has not been matched by the resources needed to deliver justice promptly for those turning to the tribunal. It says one of the key issues is a lack of judges.

A recent study looked at the last 10 years of employment claims and showed alleged breaches of the Working Time Directive was the main cause. The last few years have seen some changing trends, for instance, the number of employment tribunal decisions relating to flexible working has increased since Covid restrictions were lifted. Research by law firm GQ|Littler, published last year, showed flexible working-related claims had risen by 52% between 2021 and 2022, a record high for such claims.

According to the Law Society, cases are often listed for hearing more than 12 months from when the request was first made, while more complex claims can take more than two years to get a judgment.

“Being involved in an employment claim is extremely stressful for employees and employers,” said Shuja.

“These types of cases deal with serious matters from unfair dismissal, unpaid wages and redundancy claims to whistleblowing and unlawful discrimination.

“Long delays only add to the stress for people already worried about their job, their finances or their reputation.

“The government needs to ensure Employment Tribunal claims can be heard in a reasonable timeframe to enable individuals and businesses to resolve their issues and move on.”


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