An increase in unemployment during lockdown has resulted in the highest level of single employment tribunal claims since 2012/13.
Quarterly figures covering April to June 2020 published by the Ministry of Justice show that single claim receipts increased by 18% to 10,000, putting into context the challenge facing the tribunal. The outstanding caseload of 37,000 by the end of June had passed peak levels last seen in 2009/10. The number of disposals has fallen by 31% this year from the same period in 2019. That caseload is known to have risen since the end of the June.
The MoJ has warned that the trend is likely to continue as the government’s job retention scheme comes to an end this month. Figures published by the Office for National Statistics show that that unemployment rate grew to 4.1% in the three months to July, up from 3.9% previously, although that figure is expected to have risen since.
The government says it has provided extra capacity to hear cases through Nightingale courts, with extra investment in audio and video technology allowing for more remote hearings to be conducted.
The increase in claims has come at a time when there has been a a rise in the proportion of people who are representing themselves. Only 56% of claimants were represented by a lawyer in 2019/20, down from 64% in 2018/19. Meanwhile, 32% of claimants in 2019/20 had no representation recorded, up from 21% in 2018/19. The MoJ said this trend suggests more people are taking advantage of the online system.
From the launch of the employment tribunal fee refund scheme in October 2017 to 30 June this year, 22,000 fee refunds have been made, adding up to £18.2m.