The number of employment tribunal claims being brought has doubled in some areas since the Supreme Court declared the government’s tribunal fees unlawful, users have reported.
According to the National User Group of Employment Tribunals, although the effect of the decision is yet to be fully felt, ‘the signs are there that claims are beginning to return’.
Minutes from the group’s latest meeting show that some regions have reported a ‘doubling in new claims’ since July’s judgment.
The Supreme Court ruling overturned decisions by the High Court in 2013 and the Court of Appeal in 2015, instead backing a claim by trade union Unison that the fees, which prompted a sharp reduction in the number of claims, were introduced unlawfully. People who paid fees are now starting to be refunded.
A spike in activity at the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) was also reported. Acas had been receiving around 350 ET1s per week before the Unison decision but is now handling between 300-700 per week.
However, the group noted that a recent judgment from the Employment Appeal Tribunal (Farmah v Birmingham City Council) may also have had influence on the number of claims. That judgment held that claims for equal pay, involving claimants doing different jobs, cannot be included on the same ET1 claim form.
The minutes, from the group’s October meeting but published at the end of last month, also revealed that two regions had merged. Judge Brian Doyle, president of employment tribunals England & Wales, said that employment judges Reed (Newcastle) and Lee (Leeds) had retired – leading to a merger of those two regions to form a new ‘North East’ region.
The user group’s previous minutes, published in October, revealed that judges are retiring at a rate of around five or six per year and are not being replaced.
However, in the latest meeting, Doyle said he was optimistic that a case for ‘increased sitting days and/or additional judges’ could be made once the trends were clearer. ‘Additional sitting days could be provided relatively easily, although that would then depend upon fee-paid EJs being ready and willing to recommit to sitting in the ET,’ he said.