Employment tribunals are still being delayed by several months and courts are not responding to calls, solicitors have told the Gazette. A survey by the Employment Lawyers Association (ELA) has also found that courts are taking longer to reply to written correspondence than they did a year ago.
Employment tribunal fees were declared unlawful by the Supreme Court in July 2017 and since then claims to employment tribunals have more than doubled.
While 4,291 single claims were received in January to March 2017, 9,500 were received in January to March 2019. The number of outstanding cases has also surged by almost 40% compared to the same quarter last year.
The ELA, which heard from 387 of its members, revealed that 75% of survey respondents said that replies to written correspondence and applications take longer than they did a year ago.
Over 77% of respondents said that final hearings were being listed over a year after the issue of a claim and more than 66% of respondents experienced an increase in the time tribunals are taking to deal with the service of claims.
Tribunals in London, Watford, Reading and Cardiff are particularly badly hit, according to the ELA.
Shantha David, solicitor at Unison Legal Services and member of ELA working party on ET resource, said: 'The individual comments from the survey highlight a system that is crying out for more judicial and administrative resource.
'Of course all of these delays inevitably lead to increased costs for clients. As one respondent put it, it is "embarrassing to explain these delays to clients and leads to a loss of confidence in the rule of law. What is the point of having employment rights if they cannot be effectively enforced?"'
Individual solicitors have also told the Gazette that hearings face long delays and courts are ignoring lawyers’ enquiries.
Jodie Hill, managing director of Thrive Law, a firm which specialises in employment cases, said: ‘The delays are several months and some tribunals don’t even respond for weeks on end.
’I am calling courts at least 10 times and eventually have to make urgent applications.’
Samira Cakali, of employment firm SCE Solicitors, said: ‘It is increasingly difficult to get hold of staff in certain regions such as Nottingham, London Central and Watford. I suspect that this is due to the increase in claims as a result of the withdrawal of fees.’
She added: ‘From a respondent’s point of view, we have had cases where witnesses have left their place of work which makes it difficult to get hold of them to provide evidence.’
An HM Courts & Tribunals Service spokesperson said: ‘The employment tribunal has seen a significant increase in claims since August 2017. We have recently recruited 58 more salaried tribunal judges in England and Wales to tackle the increase in cases and we have been working with the judiciary to increase capacity and performance in the tribunal.’