In July 2017, the UK Supreme Court declared that employment tribunal fees were unlawful. The government promptly responded by scrapping fees with immediate effect and announced that full refunds would be provided to anyone who paid fees at an Employment Tribunal or Employment Appeals Tribunal between 29 July 2013 and 26 July 2017. This is expected to cost the government £33m. At the end of 2017, 3,337 refunds have been made, amounting to £2.7m.
It has now been confirmed that new claims have increased by 90% since the abolition of fees. This follows an initial rise of 64% in claims after the fees were scrapped last summer. The latest statistics show that, between October and December 2017, 8,173 single claims were brought. This is an increase of 4,200 from the same period in 2016. Employment claims are now at the highest level since 2013, when employment fees were first introduced. There has also been a huge increase in multiple claims. The government recorded a 467% increase of multiple claims in 2017 from 2016. However, it should be noted that one large multiple claim against an airline contributed to approximately 30,000 claims in the most recent quarter.
These dramatic increases in single and multiple claims unfortunately mean there is now a significant backlog. The backlog of single claims has increased by 66%. Parties will need to factor this into their strategy as there may be significant delays in the processing of applications and the listing of hearings.
Due to the removal of an often preventative application fee, and thus an increase in claims being brought, it is particularly important for employers to be compliant and seek legal advice at an early stage to prevent any issues escalating into a tribunal claim. One employment judge said that the new claims tend to be for unfair dismissal and money claims. It is therefore particularly important for employers to ensure compliance to avoid these increasingly frequent claims.