25 February 2019

Employment tribunals under stress

Backlog at employment tribunals rises 77 per cent in a year as they struggle with high volume of claims and number of staff employed falls.


The backlog of outstanding cases at UK employment tribunals rose 77 per cent in July to September 2018 to 23,700, up from 13,360 in the same period in 2017, as tribunals struggle to deal with the high volume of claims coming forward, says GQ Littler, the specialist employment law firm.

Abolishment effect

Employment Tribunals received 36,900 single claims in the year ending 30 September 2018, up 88% from 19,600 the year before. GQ Littler says falling staff numbers at Employment Tribunals, including judges and administrative staff, means tribunals do not have the resources to deal with the growing number of claims received since fees were abolished in July 2017. The number of staff employed by HM Courts and Tribunal Service has fallen 17 per cent from 19,200 in July 2013, when fees were reintroduced, to 15,990 in October 2018. Staff costs have been cut from £41.2m to £38.5m over the same period. GQ Littler says Employment Tribunals have been very effective in working with the limited resources they currently have but urgently need a larger budget to clear the growing backlog of claims.


Sophie Vanhegan, Partner at GQ Littler, says ‘limited staff resources means tribunals are struggling to deal with the deluge of claims since fees were abolished. There is clearly a bottleneck which needs dealing with. The first step would be to increase the budget so that tribunals can take on more staff. A review of the claims procedure to reduce the number of cases that actually reach tribunals may also be needed longer term.’ Ms Vanhegan added, ‘tribunals have done extremely well on a shoestring budget but this is not sustainable long term. It is not just judges that are important to the smooth running of tribunals, administrative staff are also essential to keep cases moving through the system. At present, tribunals simply do not have the resources to function properly and it is businesses that are suffering.’

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