• Tribunal fees were abolished in July 2017 removing a barrier to employees taking bosses to court.

• There’s been across the board increases in tribunal hearings since then, with cases taking longer to close.

• South London businesses should be aware of the heightened risks and follow good HR practices to reduce them.

In July 2017, the government abolished fees for employees taking their employers to tribunal. It was predicted that this would lead to a big rise in claims and the latest figures from the Ministry of Justice show that this has happened. Helen Colechin from The HR Dept South London explores what it means for local businesses.

Helen begins: “This rise in tribunal hearings was always on the cards, so it is no surprise to see these figures from the Ministry of Justice. As an HR adviser, I will always promote the merits of following good HR practices. But in this new tribunal landscape, the risks of getting HR wrong have risen.

“The figures show that not only is there a greater chance of being taken to court, but also if you do end up at a tribunal, that it’s likely to be a longer and costlier process. It is not just that there are more cases, but that the courts are struggling to cope with the caseload. Indeed, the Judicial Appointments Commission is currently trying to recruit dozens more employment judges.”

The latest figures reflect April to June 2018. When compared to the same period in 2017, single cases were up 165%, while multiple cases increased by 344% (although that was largely due to a large multiple claim against an airline). The average single claim for disability discrimination is for more than £30,000.

Helen concludes: “Where an employer wilfully treats their employees illegally, it’s absolutely right that the tribunal courts are there to provide justice. But we don’t want to see local businesses sleepwalking into claims through ignorance or facing malicious claims. Hopefully these latest figures will help to put the risks of tribunals more firmly on the radar of SME businesses.”