In July last year, following a number of appeals from the trade union Unison, the Supreme Court eventually found that the tribunal fee regime introduced in 2013 was unlawful. Since then, the government has had the unenviable job of having to determine who is entitled to a refund, which will no doubt prove to be an expensive as well as laborious exercise.
Back then, we predicted that the scrapping of the fee regime would lead to an increase in the number of claims being made. That of course was a matter of common sense, and no crystal ball was required.
Looking back over the past six months, the prediction has come to fruition. Indeed, the number of tribunal cases has risen by around two thirds in comparison to the same period last year. The ACAS chairman, Sir Brendan Barber, has also stated that there has been a 20% increase in demand for its conciliation service since the Supreme Court’s decision.
While it’s still too early to tell whether the number of claims will increase further, or whether we will see a return to the pre-July 2013 levels, the sharp increase in claims in the second half of 2017 is a stark reminder of the need to handle difficult employee situations carefully.
An additional risk factor is that all employment tribunal decisions will now be available online to the public, whereas previously online access was only to appeal decisions. Regardless of whether a claim is successful, having your name related to legal proceedings could be damaging, both in terms of current clients / stakeholders and potential recruits.
If you have any questions on any of the issues mentioned in the above article please contact Seanpaul McCahill.