Focus on Employment Tribunals

The HM Courts and Tribunal Service has announced plans to introduce a new online database of Employment Tribunal decisions in Autumn 2016. The new database will be available to the public to search on the internet. It will include judgments from England, Wales and Scotland and will initially only cover new judgments. A decision has not yet been made on converting existing judgments to be made available. Currently paper judgments from England and Wales are held at Bury St Edmunds and judgments from Scotland are held separately at the Glasgow office.

The Ministry of Justice has recently published the tribunal quarterly statistics for the period January to March 2016 which indicates that the number of claims is perhaps stabilising following the introduction of fees:

  • Employment Tribunals received 4,200 single claims (down 1% on the same period in 2015) and 25,100 multiple claims (up 56% on the same period in 2015, driven by a large airline case presented in January 2016 which primarily concerns working time and unauthorised deductions).
  • Employment Tribunals disposed of 3,800 single claims, which is down 6% on the same period of 2015. It is suggested that the continuing decrease in the disposal of single claims might be attributed to a reduction in the number of tribunal sittings, the receipt of more complex cases in addition to the fall in the volume of cases passing through the system following the introduction of fees and ACAS early conciliation. A total of 9,300 multiple claims were disposed of in this quarter.
  • 2,189 issue fee remission applications were submitted, of which 62% were either fully or partially successful, and 648 hearing fee remission applications were submitted, of which over 85% were either fully or partially successful.

Following the introduction of fees in the Employment Tribunal in summer 2013 the House of Commons Justice Committee has issued a report including recommendations regarding Employment Tribunal fees.The report has highlighted concerns aboutaccess to justice to in the employment tribunals system and recommends the following:

  • That the level of fees charged for bringing cases to Employment Tribunals should be substantially reduced.
  • The distinction between Type A (e.g. claims for unpaid wages) and Type B (e.g. unfair dismissal and discrimination) claims should be replaced, either by a single fee, a three-tier fee structure, or by a level of fee set as a proportion of the amount claimed, with the fee waived if the amount claimed is below a determined level.
  • Disposable capital and monthly income thresholds for fee remission should be increased, and no more than one fee remission application should be required, covering both the issue fee and the prospective hearing fee and with the threshold for exemption calculated on the assumption that both fees will be paid.
  • Special consideration should be given to the position of women alleging maternity or pregnancy discrimination, for whom, at the least, the time limit of three months for bringing a claim should be reviewed.

Under the Government’s Reform Programme, the rationalisation and modernisation of the courts and tribunals is being considered. This has led to much discussion and debate about the future of Employment Tribunals. One idea that is being discussed is the idea of a single Employment Court or a unified Employment and Equalities Court. The rationale for this is based around the fact that various elements of existing courts and tribunals deal with employment matters and that all employment disputes could be dealt with in one place. It is also suggested that all equality and discrimination law (whether in relation to employees or more widely) could be dealt with by one court.  There is recognition that the value, complexity and costs of employment tribunal litigation has changed immeasurably since the tribunal system was introduced and there is a need to address this.  One issue that is also likely to be addressed within this context is the role of lay-members.  A number of bodies, for example the Law Society and the Employment Lawyers Association, have begun to offer proposals about what a single Employment Court or Employment and Equalities Court might look like. It seems there may be significant changes to the system over the next few years. 

We will keep you up to date with changes to the Employment Tribunal system in future bulletins.