COVID-19 - Employment Tribunals figures up but seek help

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major affect on the numbers of claims being started in Employment Tribunals.

The latest statistics from the Ministry of Justice for the period July to September 2020 shows the highest number of claims since 2014 and five week backlogs.

Joan Pettingill, director and head of employment law and HR services at Wake Smith Solicitors, looks at the stats and what employers can do if they are concerned about tribunal claims.

According to the Ministry of Justice, the number of employment tribunal (ET) claims brought by individual claimants rose to its highest level since 2013/2014 during 1 July to 30 September 2020.  During this period alone, the amount of single claims received rose to 11,000 and multiple claim receipts rose to 19,000 providing a 13% and 24% increase respectively compared with the same quarter in 2019.

Claims brought are also taking longer to go through the system.

Between July to September 2020, 29% of disposals were withdrawn , 18% were dismissed upon withdrawal, 10% were struck out and 7% were successful at hearing. There is no need for employees to pay a fee in order to start a claim in the employment tribunal.

Joan added: “It is likely that these figures are a response to rising unemployment caused by the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the strain on ET resources as a result of social distancing guidelines.

“Dismissed employees are finding it harder to find alternative work and may feel that due to financial hardship they have little option but to bring claims to secure compensation if at all possible. This will have an impact on employers who accordingly are at higher risk of claims.

“During this time the courts, including ETs, have modernised and made more use of telephone, video and technology to continue as many hearings as possible remotely, and also prioritised cases surrounding Covid-19 related whistleblowing claims and health and safety cases.

“I expect demands will be greatly exacerbated by a further influx of claims from COVID-related issues through this third lockdown including  furlough leave issues, changes to terms of employment contracts, and claims for unfair redundancy dismissals.

“We hear daily stories about employers in the retail and hospitality sector who have already been hit hard by the pandemic and this looks set to continue.

“Wake Smith offers fixed fee employment tribunal representation and support for businesses. We recommend getting the basics done as soon as possible, including collating documents and securing witness statements,  while fresh in witnesses’ minds and whilst relevant people are with the business, just in case of any Covid-19 related redundancies or departures.

“Our experience comes from defending all kinds of tribunal claims for plcs, owner managed businesses, schools and charities from multiple holiday pay cases to redundancy to unfair dismissal and discrimination claims.”

If you are concerned about tribunal claims please contact Joan Pettingill at Wake Smith Solicitors on 0114 224 2087 or email joan.pettingill@wake-smith.com.

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