Tribunal statistics show huge drop in claimsPrint publication
The Government’s quarterly employment tribunal statistics for the period from October to December 2013 show a huge drop in claims of 79 per cent compared to the same period last year. Unlike the July to September 2013 quarter, there is no ‘skewing’ effect caused by the rush to lodge claims prior to the introduction of fees in July 2013.
The combination of tribunal issue fees and ACAS early conciliation means that employees who do bring claims are perhaps more likely to have taken professional advice on the merits of their claim and thought through their arguments in advance. They may, as a result, be more persistent in the conduct of their claim. It follows that employers will, in turn, need to properly assess the strengths and weaknesses of their defence at an early stage of the litigation.
Tribunal fees also have an impact on the timing and amount of any settlement offer made and introduce a new tactical dimension to the conduct of a defence. Claimants are including the amount of their tribunal fees in their schedule of loss and expect to recover this as part of any settlement or tribunal award. The (not insubstantial) hearing fee is required to be paid by the claimant in advance of the hearing and will not be repaid by the tribunal to the claimant in the event that the case settles before the hearing. The claimant obviously also loses the fee if they lose the case. There can therefore be a tactical advantage to the employer in making a full and final settlement offer shortly before the hearing fee is due to be paid on the basis that the offer will be open until the point at which the hearing fee is paid. This can force the claimant to focus on the financial risk they are taking (and the gamble of losing their tribunal fees) at an earlier stage of the proceedings.