The pandemic has altered the way that employment tribunals have been able to carry out their business and tribunals have had to adapt to new virtual hearing processes to ensure their continued operation (read more about this in our previous blog.)Here we take a look at the latest quarterly and annual Ministry of Justice employment tribunal statistics and what they tell us.

More work for the tribunal – the effect of the pandemic

Increase in claims
The last quarterly statistics published (covering April – June 2020) showed an 18% increase in the number of single claims received (when compared to the same period in 2019), which is the highest level of single claims since 2012/2013. The negative impact that COVID-19 has had on many sectors of the UK economy, which has led to changes to working conditions, large redundancy exercises and high rates of unemployment, is likely to have contributed to such an increase in claims.

The number of claims was predicted to increase further, prior to the extension of furlough and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme at the end October, but we shall have to wait until the next quarter to assess the continued impact of the pandemic on claim levels. Going forward we can expect to see an increased number of claims involving redundancy, changes to terms and conditions and contractual pay and benefits.

Increase in backlog
Despite the increased use of virtual hearings and technology by tribunals along with their continued efforts to adapt to the challenges of the pandemic, periods of lockdown led to many cases being put on hold. This, coupled with a rise in claims in the last quarter, has led to a marked increase in the backlog of cases in the system.

According to Ministry of Justice data, published at the beginning of September, there were 39,093 single claims and 5,915 multiple claims outstanding (as at 23 August 2020) which equals a growing backlog of approximately 45,000 cases. This represents around a 26% increase from the start of March 2020 before the pandemic hit.

What do the annual statistics show?

As the annual statistics run from April 2019 to March 2020, they do not take into account the impact of the pandemic discussed above. Nevertheless they provide some interesting comparisons to previous years:

  • the total number of claims compared to 2018/19 actually decreased from 121,075 to 103,973 (possibly because fewer claims than usual were raised at the very start of the pandemic in March).
  • the highest awards were in relation to disability discrimination (£265,719) and age discrimination (£243,636).
  • the highest award in relation to a sex discrimination claim increased significantly from £17,420 to £73,619, which perhaps coincides with the increased focus on preventing sexual harassment in the workplace following the #MeToo movement.
  • In terms of costs awards, following two years of static results in 2016/17 and 2018/19, last year we saw a decline, and this has continued in 2019/20, with total costs awards made reducing from 2019 to 177. The highest costs award declined significantly from £329,386 in 2018/19 to £103,486 in 2019/20.

Upcoming webinar

Join us on Thursday 3 December 2020 for our next webinar: 'Employment litigation in a digital world'. We will share our insights on how employment tribunals have adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic and will look at topics such as:

  • Virtual or in person – which factors may determine the type of hearing you get, and will you have a say?
  • What you'll need to know, and do to prepare for and participate in either type of hearing
  • Particular considerations for witnesses
  • Public access to hearings - aspects of this you may need to consider.

Further information

Please get in touch with a member of the employment and immigration team should you wish to discuss anything raised in this blog. Practical guidance on Tribunal Claims and ACAS Early Conciliation is also available for Workbox users.