ACAS reports increase in Employment Tribunal claims
Since last summer and following the Supreme Court’s decision in R (on the application of Unison) v Lord Chancellor  UKSC 51 that the Employment Tribunal fee system was unlawful, there has been a steady increase in the number of claims.
From late August 2017 there was a 23% increase in ACAS Early Conciliation notifications and a 59% increase in claims being issued in the Employment Tribunal compared to the same period in 2016.
It is important to say that the impact of group notifications and connected cases (eg. large Equal Pay group actions) may have distorted these statistics and the long term impact of the abolition of Employment Tribunal fees remains to be seen. However, what is clear is that a significant financial barrier which prevented employees from issuing a claim has been removed. For example, previously many tempers cooled at the prospect of having to pay £1,200 to take an unfair dismissal claim to a final hearing. Unaffordable and disproportionate fees resulted in a 66-70% drop in issued claims, a drop so sharp, so substantial and so sustained that the Supreme Court concluded that the fee system prevented access to justice.
Without the obstacle of Employment Tribunal fees, employers need to think carefully about how they approach employee disputes. The success of ACAS Early Conciliation, which did not exist when fees were introduced, means that issued claim numbers are unlikely to return to previous levels but employers need to be mindful that progressing from Early Conciliation to a Tribunal claim has suddenly become a lot more affordable. For employer and employees alike early expert legal advice remains key.