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Latest ACAS and Employment Tribunal statistics - an increase in the number of claims revealed

31st March 2018

This month both ACAS and the Employment Tribunal Service have released statistics on the use of their services in 2017. The figures for ACAS relate to the period from April 2017 to December 2017, while the Employment Tribunal figures relate to the period from October 2017 to December 2017. As they relate to much the same period, these figures are genuinely helpful in providing a guide as to the rate of use of their services since the Employment Tribunal fees were abolished. Admittedly, the statistics on the use of the Employment Tribunal Service are provisional only, but it is unlikely that they will be revised substantially.

The consistent message from both sets of statistics is that the number of claims being brought to both organisations has seen a noted increase in 2017. A word of caution needs to be made in analysing this development, in that the number of claims being heard by the Employment Tribunals following the introduction of the issuing and hearing fees collapsed by roughly 80%, and (despite some contrary predictions) never really recovered. It was only a short period after the introduction of the fees that the Government made it compulsory for most applicants to raise complaints with the ACAS Early Conciliation scheme before being able to take their claims into the Employment Tribunal. In that sense it is interesting to see the two sets of statistics side by side in order to get a comprehensive view as to how the ruling on the Tribunal fees has affected the overall demand for the handling of work-related complaints.

ACAS noted that the number of claims it received per week in the period between April 2017 and December 2017 was roughly 2,200. Previously they had been receiving roughly 1,700 claims per week. This marked an increase of approximately 500 per week on the numbers that had been received prior to the Supreme Court ruling that the Employment Tribunal fees were unlawful. The ACAS update states that since the 28th August 2017 there has been an increase in net Early Conciliation notifications of 25% over the same period in 2016. The figures indicate that Early Conciliation proved to be successful in 17% of cases. Of the remaining cases some 58% did not proceed to the Employment Tribunal, and 26% did make their way to the Employment Tribunal (although some 21% of those cases were settled using a COT3 agreement – a form of settlement which involved ACAS in assisting the parties to reaching the terms of settlement).

The trends identified in the figures from ACAS are consistent with the patterns found in the figures from the Ministry of Justice for the Employment Tribunal Service. Those figures, which relate to the period from October to December 2017, show that the number of single claims received by the Employment Tribunals increased by 90%, and the number of claims that the Tribunals gave final rulings (or “disposed of”) on rose by 21%. The unfortunate effect of this rise in the number of claims received by the Employment Tribunals is the increase in the backlog of claims, which increased by 66%.

Both sets of statistics demonstrate that there is a clear pattern of increasing numbers of complaints being brought into the system, and they suggest that this is likely to be a feature for the foreseeable future – or at least until the Government revisits the subject of charging for access to the dispute resolution process for workplace disputes. There is, however, no indication that any new fee system is going to be introduced in the near future.

So, for employers the message is that individuals are now more prepared to pursue claims than they were under the fee system, and that once in that system, the process is going to take longer to be completed than had been the case for a number of years.

These figures also indicate that the fee regime had become a genuine bar to a large number of claims. It is also our experience that the fee regime had not really reduced the number of weak or frivolous claims any more than it had reduced the strong and genuine cases. The figures from ACAS and the Employment Tribunal Service therefore support the argument that the Government’s own argument that the fees would in particular deter the frivolous and misguided individuals from taking purely speculative or opportunist claims into the system was flawed. 

If you need any further advice on any matter raised in this article do not hesitate to contact us at Hallett Employment Law Services Ltd.

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