Employment tribunal claims: on the rise

16 Oct 2019

When we are speaking to employers they are rightly wary of the impact a Tribunal claim might have on their business, both in terms of financial risk and time. But what is the likelihood of a claim being issued and what might the employee be awarded?

The Ministry of Justice has just published its annual report into Tribunal claims, and they provide useful insight which help answer these questions.
Claims are on the rise

Way back in 2009/2010 there were 236,000 claims issued in the employment tribunals. The Government then introduced fees so employees had to pay to litigate, and this reduced the claims down to 88,000 by 2016/17. UNISON then won a famous victory in the Supreme Court as a result of which the fee system was immediately abolished (for now).

So where are we now? As you might expect, claims are now back on the rise, with the latest figures showing 121,000 claims issued in 2018/2019.

How many claims succeed?

Interestingly, in 2018/19, only 9% of claims succeeded at Hearing. Around 65% of claims were either settled through ACAS or withdrawn (probably following a settlement). 18% of claims were dismissed or struck out by the Tribunal.
What compensation awards are made? 

In 2018/19 Tribunals awarded compensation in 774 claims, not many given the volume of claims issued.

Whilst compensation is calculated predominantly based on loss of earnings, it is worth noting that the awards for different types of claim in 2018/19 were:
Unfair dismissal £13,704 £947,585
Disability discrimination £28,371 £416,015
Age discrimination £26,148 £172,070
Race discrimination £12,487 £33,660
Sex discrimination £8,774 £24,103

What are the chances of employers recovering their legal costs?

Pretty slim. In 2018/19 only 158 costs awards were made to successful employers. 51 employees were awarded costs. The average costs award was £6,729, although the year did see the highest ever costs award of £329,386 against a particularly unfortunate litigant. 

Will a new fee system be introduced?

Last November, a government minister suggested that whilst there are no immediate plans to re-introduce fees, a new fee system could not be ruled out. We have heard nothing further since.

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