Claims to employment tribunals have soared by 90% since the abolition of fees, latest official figures show. The government’s latest quarterly statistics, for October to December 2017, show 8,173 single claims were brought, up from 4,200 in the same period in 2016.

Claims were 16% up on the previous quarter and are at the highest level since 2013, when employment fees were introduced. The backlog of single claims has increased by 66%.

The data also shows a huge increase in the amount of multiple claims filed. According to the government, 31,921 multiple claims were filed in the period – an increase of 467% on 2016.

However, it is noted that in the most recent quarter, one large multiple claim against an airline contributed to approximately 30,000 claims. The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said multiple claims tend to be ‘more volatile’.

The MoJ said the sharp rise was fueled by the Supreme Court’s ruling in July last year that employment tribunal fees were unlawful. The government promptly scrapped fees with immediate effect.

Helen Crossland, head of employment at London law firm Seddons, said: ‘This follows the initial 64% rise in new claims being brought after fees were scrapped last summer. Unfortunately, this has also made for a corresponding backlog in claims; one consequence being that parties will need to factor into their case strategy the fact they will have to wait much longer for hearings to be listed and for applications (including to address unmeritorious claims) to be processed.’

Paul Quain, partner at GQ Employment Law, said he expected the number of cases would continue to rise. ’It certainly looks like the removal of fees has led to a surge in claims, taking us closer to the levels before fees were introduced. The number of single cases is already beginning to rise closer to rates not seen in the last five years.’

He added: ’To help deal with the already rising number of cases, a larger budget for employment tribunals will be necessary. The backlog of claims has increased significantly and it is important to manage this going forward as it can be a major bugbear for both employees and employers.’

Immediately after the Supreme Court’s ruling the government announced a full refund scheme for anyone who paid a fee - expected to cost £33m. As of 31 December, the MoJ has made 3,337 refunds, amounting to £2.7m.