Minutes from the latest meeting of the Employment Tribunal National User Group have revealed that, since the employment tribunal fees regime came to an end last year, there has been a 100% increase in the number of claims received by employment tribunals compared to the period immediately before the Unison decision in which employment tribunal fees were held to be unlawful.
The rise is significant, but the number of claims is still some way off their pre-fees levels. To get back up to that level would require another 100% increase in claims being lodged with the tribunal. However, the trend is clear - employees are filing more claims and they can afford to be more bullish in negotiations with their employer, knowing they can file a claim if they need to without any financial outlay.
One of the consequences of the increased tribunal caseload is that a backlog of hearings is beginning to form. Multiple-day hearings are being listed many more months ahead than they used to be, as the employment tribunal system does not yet have enough judges available to deal with increased caseload, despite a recruitment drive.
This in itself might persuade claimants to accept a settlement offer early in proceedings instead of waiting a much longer time in the hope of recovering more in tribunal. For claimants and respondents it is likely to be beneficial for potential witnesses to prepare draft statements earlier rather than later, to reduce the risk of critical details being forgotten by the time of the eventual hearing.