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Employment tribunal claims have risen by 66% in the first quarter after the UK Supreme Court declared employment tribunal fees unlawful.
Claims are up from 4,241 in April-June 2017 to 7,042 in July-October 2017.
Vikki Wiberg, Senior Counsel at the law firm Taylor Wessing, said the numbers were hard evidence that backed up the experiences of employers in recent months: “Almost immediately following the Supreme Court’s abolition Employment Tribunal fees, we and many of our clients noticed a spike in claims. These statistics bear out the scale of this trend. Clearly, the introduction of Employment Tribunal fees had the intended effect of dissuading employees from making claims, and their abolition has widened access to justice again.”
The Coalition government introduced Employment Tribunal fees in July 2013, in an effort to dissuade employees from bringing ‘weak or malicious’ claims against their employers. The £1,200 fees led to a 79% fall in employment tribunal claims in the three years following its introduction.
In July this year, the UK Supreme Court declared the fees unlawful, finding that they limited employees’ access to justice.
Wiberg says that the sudden reversal has left some employers struggling to readjust to the pre-fee level of claims: “Over the four years that fees were in place, many companies naturally moved resources away from dealing with tribunal claims. The abolition of fees, and the influx in new claims that resulted, has caught out many companies who are now being forced to quickly re-train staff in order to cope.”
She adds that employers could face serious reputational consequences if they became relaxed about their employment practices while fees were in place, especially because all Tribunal decisions are now available online.
“Tribunal fees might have given employers a false sense of security, enabling some to relax their management practices on the assumption that employees wouldn’t pay £1,200 to take their claims to the Employment Tribunal. Whilst this was not to be recommended, these statistics bear out how urgent it is for employers to get their house in order.”
“This rise in claims also coincides with the rollout of the online Tribunal judgement database at the start of 2017, meaning that companies are likely to face more public scrutiny of the way they treat their employees. If employers aren’t following best practice, they are more likely both to face a Tribunal claim and to have all the facts of that claim laid bare for the public to see.”