The employment tribunal is facing an fast-growing backlog of cases after the Covid-19 pandemic – and must brace itself for more cases still in the coming months.
Figures published by the Office for National Statistics confirmed that that unemployment rate grew to 4.1% in the three months to July, up from 3.9% previously. That increase was in spite of the government’s furlough scheme which has paid towards the salaries of almost 10 million people and will be closed at the end of next month.
The employment tribunal is expected to see a spike in claims from people challenging decisions about their jobs, and this will add to a growing backlog of cases which is causing huge delays to the listing of cases.
The Ministry of Justice published data last week showing that by 23 August 39,093 single claims were outstanding in the employment tribunal, and 5,915 multiple claims. The backlog has increased every week since the lockdown began, and overall is now 26% higher than at the beginning of March.
The number of weekly receipts of single claims has twice topped 1,000 – at the beginning of April and then July – and received cases have consistently exceeded those disposed of. In the final week of August, the tribunal received 910 claims but disposed of just 582, showing the scale of the challenge of tackling the backlog.
The Gazette has been told of cases being listed for 2022 at Manchester and a one-hour preliminary hearing not being possible at London South until March next year.
Before-the-event insurer ARAG said today that a further wave of redundancies could ‘overwhelm’ the employment tribunal. It reported a 336% increase in calls for redundancy advice to its legal helpline in the six months between March and August, and said it was aware of longer hearings already being listed for 2022.
Head of claims Chris Millward said: ‘We know from experience that so many redundancies will inevitably lead to a big spike in tribunal claims, not just over redundancy pay and failure to consult, but for unfair dismissal, discrimination and other causes of complaint. It is difficult to see how the employment tribunal system will be able to cope.’