The Ministry of Justice has released its employment tribunal statistics from Q1 and Q2 2020/21 which shows a significant increase in employment tribunal claims. This further exacerbates the already monumental issue of tribunal back log following the abolition of the employment tribunal fees, worsened significantly by the pandemic and restrictions on face-to-face hearings. With the battle against Covid-19 continuing, these long delays could continue for some time unless there is further government funding.
Compared to the same time in the previous year, the statistics show an 18% increase in single employment tribunal receipts (new claims) in Q1 (April to June 2020), followed by a 13% increase in Q2 (July to September 2020). Employment tribunals caseload (active cases) also rocketed, with an increase of 33% in Q1 and 22% in Q2.
Many companies have implemented mass redundancies since the pandemic began, whilst others have had to transform working practices, either with the use of the furlough scheme or by moving employees to a remote working set up. shows that disabled people, those asked to shield, or parents/carers are at least twice as likely to be facing redundancy as the rest of the population. The Employment Tribunal acts as the only form of recourse for many individuals in these situations.
This is evidenced by the statistician’s comments from the report, which states that “this rise in employment receipts is likely to continue as the economy has faced a severe shock following the impact of Covid-19 and could be further accelerated when the furlough scheme ends”.
It has been reported that tribunass are prioritising pandemic-related dismissals on health and safety grounds; presumably to deal with cases which have wider public interest implications soonest.
The Citizens Advice Bureau is forecasting the backlog of employment tribunal cases to pass 500,000 by the spring. This means that parties should expect long lead times between issuing proceedings and tri; this currently stands at 38 weeks but could be much longer for more complex cases.
Although the government has contributed £80 million to help boost the courts and tribunal service, which includes the funding of emergency Nightingale courts, most of this funding is road mapped for the crown courts and civil courts to avoid injustice in these areas. Unless the government can contribute further funding to enable more of the Nightingale courts to hear employment tribunal claims, both employees and employers should expect cases to drag on far longer than usual for the foreseeable future.
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