During March 2014 the Ministry of Justice published its quarterly Employment Tribunal statistics for October to December 2013. Unlike the July to September 2013 quarter, there is no “skewing” effect from those who rushed to lodge claims before the introduction of Tribunal fees in July 2013.
The headline news is that there was a 79% drop (compared with the same period in 2012) in the number of Tribunal claims lodged. Also, the number of unfair dismissal claims seems to be down by 65%.
These latest statistics suggest that Tribunal fees are indeed putting of vexatious Claimants (a.k.a. Mr “My employer hasn’t done anything wrong, but if I put in a claim I might get a nuisance value pay-off”!). However, whilst I have seen my fair share of time wasters in the past, I do not believe that the 79% drop solely relates to this type of Claimant. It may be that other Claimants are being put off from bringing claims due to the new costs involved and the minefield that is the fee-remission system (which is available to help low earners). Either way, this recent batch of statistics, on the face of it, supports the arguments raised by Unions that the new fees are preventing access to justice.
So, all in all, good news for employers at the moment. However, only time will tell whether this trend will continue. It may be that the number of claims being lodged will start to pick up when those who act for Claimants get completely to grips with the fairly complex fee remission system and new insurance offerings (covering the cost of fees) become available. Also, if the current dramatic trend continues, it may be that the Government decides to re-think its approach on fees (stranger things have happened). However, at the moment, it looks unlikely that the volume of claims will reach previous levels any time soon.
These notes have been prepared for the purpose of an article only. They should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice.