The Senior President of Tribunals, Mr Justice Langstaff’s, Annual Report was published at the end of February (1) .
The report identifies 2014 as being a year in which the Employment Tribunals, and employment law generally, had to cope with the introduction of many changes. It also predicts changes for 2015.
Key points of note are:
- 2014 was the first full year in which the introduction of tribunal fees was felt. It is now clear that there is something like an 80% drop in claims being lodged with the employment tribunal when compared with the pre-fee regime.
- Unison’s judicial review challenge to the introduction of employment tribunal fees, which, after being sent back to the High Court from the Court of Appeal, was dismissed for a lack of evidence. Unison had argued, amongst other things, that fees made it too expensive for employees to enforce European employment rights in the UK and had a disparate impact on women and minority groups but failed to provide sufficient evidence to substantiate either point.
- The introduction of mandatory Acas pre-claim conciliation with effect from 6 April 2014. When comparing the first quarter of 2014 (before it had been introduced) with the second quarter of 2014 (after it had been introduced), statistics suggest that pre claim conciliation had been responsible for a 22% reduction in claims.
- Devolving the Scottish employment tribunal is now back on the agenda. This could pave the way for tribunal fees in Scotland to be abolished. This would lead to the interesting situation in which Claimants who have the right to bring claims in both England and Scotland (for example, because their contract is partly performed in Scotland) could opt to claim in Scotland to avoid fees.
- The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill is currently before Parliament. If enacted this will impose financial penalties on Respondents who fail to pay sums awarded by an Employment Tribunal or that are due under an Acas settlement. This is an attempt by Parliament to ensure that, since tribunal fees, Claimants do not end up paying for a system that has no teeth to enforce awards of compensation, which has been a longstanding problem.
The report concludes that the tribunal’s future workload remains unpredictable and hinges on the policies of whichever Government is in power after the May election.
For further information please contact a member of our employment team or call 01737 854 500 or email [email protected]