Since the Supreme Court ruled that tribunal fees were unlawful in Summer 2017, the subsequent abolishment resulted in a steep hike of employment claims. In fact, claims are at a record high since 2013.
Steep hike in employment claims
In the first quarter following the abolition the number of employment claim cases doubled, and in the three months to December 2017 the number of cases were up 90% compared to the same time in the previous year.
54 additional judges needed
As a result, the Judicial Appointments Commission are set to recruit 54 additional judges to tackle the increased demand and the substantial backlog of cases waiting to be heard. Recruitment began this week and applications will be accepted up until the beginning of July. The new judges are not expected to take up the posts until 2019 and it is speculated that additional administrative support will also be required to process the employment claim caseloads efficiently.
Industrial action by ACAS conciliators
This news comes following recent industrial action which was taken by ACAS conciliators over concerns about the increase in their workload (also related to the abolishment of tribunal fees). On 6th June 2018, Marion Lloyd of the PCS union said that strike action had secured an extra 40 jobs and commitment from management to ensure support with the additional caseload. As there is no longer a financial barrier for access to justice, and there are substantial permanent plans to meet demand, it may be wise to speculate that the usual level of employment claims going through in the future will be significantly higher than what we have been used to over the last 5 years.
Helpful guidance for employers
Quick wins employers can do now are:
- Issue the right contract in the first 2 calendar months of employment. Failure to issue a contract in this time is a claim in itself. By issuing the right contract, you should have identified the correct employment status and from there, you can know the associated statutory rights.
- Employers should be ensuring that their line managers are familiar with the terms in the contracts they issue to staff, as well as any Company policies. Making sure you are not in breach of your own rules is an easy place to start and is where many employers first fall down. Don’t forget to bear in mind any custom and practices that have developed, so that you are consistent.
- Familiarise yourselves with the ACAS code of conduct. Failure to adopt their advised HR practices can automatically result in a 25% uplift in a tribunal award.
- Before doing anything drastic, seek advice, particularly ahead of any dismissal, change to terms or practice, or when you receive a resignation.
Always remember there are a great deal of ways in which claims can be brought in an employment tribunal from day one of employment.
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