The Ministry of Justice has recently published tribunal statistics for October to December 2013. This is the first proper analysis of the effect of the introduction of the employment tribunal fees on 29 July 2013. The statistics showed that only 9,801 claims were received by the employment tribunals in this quarter compared to an average of 50,000 claims received per quarter in 2012/13. This is a decrease of 79% compared to the same quarter in 2012 and 75% fewer than in the previous quarter. The number of claims brought by single individuals has also dropped by 64% compared to the same period in 2012 (this is ignoring the impact of multiple claims which can skew the statistics).
This appears to be good news for employers, who now have fewer claims to defend against disgruntled employees. However, these statistics can also be used to illustrate the fact that the introduction of fees of £1,200 has had a severe impact on access to justice for many employees. This may also be why there was an influx of claims lodged at tribunals in late June and July 2013 – just before the fee regime came into force.
The Ministry of Justice has advised that these statistics should be treated with “extreme caution” as the statistics are still provisional and may be revised at a later date (a full reconciled revision will be undertaken for the end of 2013).
Furthermore, under the business processes that facilitate fee-charging, a claim is not entered onto the internal case management system from which the statistics are extracted until the relevant fee is paid or a remission application has been granted. This means that there may be a number of claims that are presented post July 2013 but only formally accepted at a later stage.
Nevertheless, if employees no longer feel able to defend their interests via the employment tribunals, they may look to do so in other ways – such as by turning to trade unions for support. Indeed, if this trend continues it will give the trade union Unison (who lost its recent judicial review challenge to the fee regime) leverage to argue that the Lord Chancellor should amend the fees regime. The court has already made it clear that the Lord Chancellor would have to amend the fees regime if future statistics show that the principle of effectiveness under EU law is being infringed. The statistics released by the Ministry of Justice are not unsurprising and it will no doubt reinforce calls for the fees regime to be substantially amended.