The number of claims received by employment tribunals has jumped 17 per cent in the last year to 42,392, up from 36,336 in the previous 12 months.
Employment law firm GQ Littler said the increase was “significantly faster” than the 7 per cent rise that occurred between 2017/18 and 2018/19 and ties in with the increased employment law risks surrounding the pandemic.
Many businesses have had to undertake mass redundancy programmes, while others have had to completely reengineer the way their employees work as staff moved to remote working because of the pandemic.
According to GQ Littler, the increase in new employment disputes has only added to the backlog of employment tribunal claims.
The average wait time for single claims of unfair dismissal and discrimination is 38 weeks, according to Citizens Advice, suggesting that if someone were to put a claim in for this month, on average they will not have their case heard until September 2021 – but it could be even longer.
Tribunal buildings have also had to adhere to the social distancing constraints and adapt to virtual hearings. This has meant many cases had to be put on hold., further adding to the backlog.
GQ Littler partner Philip Cameron said it was unrealistic to expect to go through a huge change in working practices and a severe economic downturn without creating a sharp rise in disputes between employers and employees.
Employment tribunals have been underfunded for years, he said, and face a continued shortage of judges.
Cameron said there would likely be more employment claims along with more redundancies, adding: “Given the economic turbulence caused by Covid, it is expected that redundancy related claims will continue to flood the system when the furlough scheme ends.”
The Ministry of Justice has been contacted for comment.