ET claims still on the rise – and the system is creaking badly
The latest Ministry of Justice figures for employment claims – for the period January to March 2019 – show a continuation of the steady increase in the number of employment tribunal claims compared to the same period in 2018. Tribunals are becoming ever busier.
Single claims increased with outstanding caseload – at 39% – showing the sharpest rise. In one case, quoted by the law firm Pinsents, a claim that was lodged in December 2018 went to preliminary hearing in May 2019 with the five day hearing listed in the London South Employment Tribunal for August 2020.
The Employment Lawyers Association (ELA) has added its voice to concerns over tribunal delays, saying that the system is struggling to cope with demand, In a survey of members three-quarters reported that responses to written correspondence or applications are taking longer than a year ago, whilst two-thirds had experienced an increase in the time tribunals are taking to deal with the service of claims.
The tribunal service has also been busy dealing with refunds under their Fees Refund Scheme. From the launch of the scheme in October 2017, three months after the abolition of fees in July 2017, there were 22,000 applications for refunds received and 21,700 refund payments made, with a total value of £17m.
All this shows an unprecedented workload for the tribunal system, at a time when there are also too few full-time judges. Only 80 full-time salaried employment judges were on the payroll last year. Although there are a further 1,100 part-timers, they usually only deal with case management and shorter, less complicated hearings.