The 2010-11 figures for Employment Tribunals have been published and show an 8% fall in the number of claims received when compared with the previous year. Please see Employment Tribunals and EAT Statistics 2010-11
Of claims accepted by the Tribunal 47,000 were for unfair dismissal which was a drop of just under 10,000 from the year before. The level of sex discrimination claims remained almost the same at just over 18,000 as did disability claims at just over 7,000. Age discrimination claims showed a marked increase from 5,200 to 6,800.
For unfair dismissal cases 41% reached conciliated settlements through ACAS, 25% were withdrawn and 11% were struck out not at a hearing. Only 8% were successful at a Tribunal Hearing while 10% were unsuccessful. For successful claims the average award was £8,924.
For age discrimination cases 35% were settled via ACAS while 40% were withdrawn. Only 2% were successful at Tribunal. 9% were unsuccessful. The average award for age discrimination though was £30,289.
The figures accord with the proposals put forward by Vince Cable, business secretary in his speech to the Engineering Employers Federation of November 23rd as they show that a significant number of claims are withdrawn. Mr Cable said in his speech that the introduction of fees will encourage users to “think long and hard about the validity of the claim. Too many people have unrealistic expectations about the scale of award they may receive, and perhaps don’t think carefully about the type of claim they should bring.”
It is also clear from the Tribunal figures that many claims settle. Because of the way in which cases settle it is not apparent from the figures whether settlement is reached because the claimant has a genuine case and that rather than face the financial and time costs of defending a claim they are likely to lose the respondent settles it. The other alternative is that in order to avoid the same costs the respondent may choose to settle on a ‘commercial basis’. The average claim according to Mr Cable costs £4,000 and takes 24 weeks.
ACAS already plays a significant role in the settlement process as is again evident from the figures. The employment reform proposals address this by intending to bring in a requirement for claims to be submitted first to ACAS to see if the matter can be resolved through conciliation rather than through the tribunal.
These are of course not the only changes proposed in the reforms. Perhaps of most concern to employees will be the increase to the qualifying period for bringing a claim for unfair dismissal from 1 to 2 years. The changes that have been proposed are widely supported by the statistics from the Employment Tribunals but may give rise to unintended consequences as aggrieved employees draw on discrimination legislation to bring claims which do not require a qualifying period.
Time will tell if the proposed changes will have the expected outcome or whether they will give rise to the unintended consequences that dogged the Statutory Dispute Resolution Procedures in the Employment Act 2002 leading to them being abolished in 2009 after a short period of time.
If you have any questions on the issues raised in this article or about employment law generally please contact Sarah Everton at firstname.lastname@example.org.