Employment tribunals continue to be beset with delays, including in the average time taken to deal with the first stage of the litigation process and for parties receiving judgments, employment lawyers have claimed.
According to a survey of Employment Lawyers Association (ELA) members, 90% of respondents said they had experienced delays in tribunals dealing with interim paper applications. More than half (57%) said they had experienced delays in receiving reserved judgments and 45% reported postponements of a hearing due to a lack of judicial resources.
The survey received 320 responses.
Richard Fox, chair of ELA’s tribunal resources working party and head of employment at UK firm Kingsley Napley, said some members had reported delays of 'many weeks and in some cases, even months’ before tribunals dealt with claims. Many employment judges are handling the correspondence themselves, including typing up their own orders and distributing them to parties directly, he said.
It is the latest sign that tribunals are struggling to cope with the surge in claims since the Supreme Court ruled last year that the fees introduced in 2013 were unlawful.
In March, the Gazette reported that claims to tribunals had soared by 90% since the ruling. The figures, included in the government’s quarterly statistics for October to December 2017, showed 8,173 single claims were brought, up from 4,200 in the same period in 2016.
The government’s next update, from January to March this year, is to be published on 14 June.
The ELA has written to the presidents of the employment tribunals in England & Wales and in Scotland, Judge Brian Doyle and Judge Shona Simon, to make them aware of members’ views.
Fox said: ‘Our findings are deeply worrying. Tribunals are plainly under intense strain at the moment. Some of these issues are down to a lack of judicial resource; others to the lack of support at an administrative level. What is particularly concerning is that we are still far short of the number of claims being brought before the tribunal fees were introduced in the summer of 2013. So, in all likelihood, the pressures on the system are only going to get worse before they get better.’
He added that lawyers had been told it may take as long as a year before there are significantly more judges in place.