2011-2012 Employment Tribunal Statistics – more details

Following the earlier publication in June of the 2011-12 statistics for the employment tribunal, the Tribunal service have today issued some more detailed statistics for the same period.

Perhaps the headline stat from the latest figures is the remarkably high award made in one particular race discrimination claim – a staggering £4,445,023! There were also high maximum awards made for disability discrimination [£390,871] and age discrimination claims [£144,100]. However, it’s worth noting that these maximum figures are well out of the normal range of awards made by employment tribunals – in contrast the average award for disability discrimination was £22,183, whilst age discrimination saw an average award made of £19,327.

The highest level of awards for unfair dismissal compensation was £173,408 which is of course much more than the normal statutory cap for such claims of £72,300. However that cap on unfair dismissal awards can be exceeded in some cases of health and safety or whistleblowing.

It’s also worth noting again that this year saw a reduction of 15% in the overall level of claims made – 2011-12 saw 186,300 employment tribunal claims made, down from 218,100 claims in 2010 – 11.

Thinking of making an employment tribunal claim? Call our specialist Employment Tribunal Lawyers on 0800 1404544, wherever you live or work in England and Wales.


Annual Tribunal Statistics show dip in claims

The annual Tribunal Statistics for the year 2011–12 have now been published. With regard to the Employment Tribunal [ ET], there seems to be a general downward trend. For example 186,300 new claims were received by the ET, which compared to the previous 12 month period showed a fall of 15%. However there were significant differences between the reduction of the number of single and multiple claims made – whilst just 2% less single claims were made, there were 19% less multiple ET claims received.

The number of actual disposals of cases by the ET also dropped during 2011 -12. N30,000 cases were finally disposed of, 10% less than the previous year. However, the ET seems to be successfully continuing their attempts to slowly tackle the claims backlog – the number of single claims remaining unresolved by the ET dropped by 7%, a continuation of the trend which began back in 2009.

Of the number of employment tribunal claims actually received, 31% were for unfair dismissal, redundancy or breach of contract, with a further 16% accounted for by deductions in wages claims.

Interestingly, of 230,000 individual complaints that were disposed of during the year, just 12% were successful at the tribunal hearing – far fewer than the 27% of withdrawn and 33% that resulted in a successful ACAS conciliation – though of course it remains to be seen whether these claims were withdrawn as the result of the settlement, and with the ACAS conciliating claims were successfully resolved in favour of the claimant or not.

Law Society slams Employment Tribunal fees

In a press release earlier this week from the Law Society, the organisation representing solicitors throughout England and Wales, John Wotton, president of the Law Society, has strongly criticised the government’s proposals for the introduction of fees for issuing an Employment Tribunal claim or an appeal to the employment appeal tribunal. Mr Wotton described the move is as potentially denying access to justice to those who have recently been sacked who, he claims, would as a result no longer have an effective right to have their case heard at an Employment Tribunal. He continued that “access to justice in employment matters will be confined to those with the means to afford these fees”.

His comments add to those already by a number of industry experts and come the day after the House of Lords rejected six separate parts of the proposed Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill – giving the government a bloody nose on a range of issues including permitting legal aid to remain available for medical reports in medical negligence claim cases. These defeats come hard on the heels of the government’s own concessions in the bill with regard to medical negligence for those children with severe injuries, those victims of domestic violence and domestic child abduction.

An Employer’s responsibilities regarding Workplace Discrimination

Potentially lawful and fair grounds for the dismissal of an employee include conduct, capability and redundancy. However, an employee cannot be dismissed on lawful grounds alone and disciplinary procedures and stages exist to ensure that fair and reasonable decisions are made in the circumstances.

Qualifying criteria, such as the length of an employee’s service and the right not to be unfairly dismissed, must be factored in when considering dismissal. Some categories of worker other than employees are also entitled to other rights, such as paid leave and regulations preventing the less favourable treatment of part-time workers and fixed-term employees also exist.

Unlawful grounds for the dismissal of an employee are age, disability, race, sex, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, and religion or belief, defined as protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010 Employee dismissal via any of these means is classed as discrimination.

Although workplace discrimination and employment discrimination are not always intentional, motive is irrelevant in all employment discrimination at work cases. For example, a manager will be deemed as discriminating an employee for counting time off due to pregnancy-related illness as absenteeism and, as a result the employee could file a complaint of sex or pregnancy discrimination.

Employees are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect and any employer deemed to be acting unreasonably, i.e. to act in such a way that destroys the mutual bond of trust and confidence with their employee, risks being subject to a bullying and harassment claim and complaints of constructive dismissal.

Even if an employer has policies to tackle workplace discrimination, harassment, victimisation and bullying, if they are not implemented it is impossible to prove that they have taken all reasonable steps to avoid employment discrimination. Therefore all employers should ensure that applicable parties should be fully trained in the complexities of workplace discrimination laws. An up-to-date Equal Opportunities and Diversity Policy should be produced so that an employer does not make themselves vulnerable to a claim made to an Employment Tribunal and it is recommended that they consult the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Code of Practice when writing this Policy.

An employer can protect goodwill and staff, their two most valuable assets, by agreeing restrictive covenants, however the Courts scrutinise these closely so the employer should apply due care and attention when drafting any covenants to ensure that they are reasonable.

Whether or not you are an employee who thinks that they might have grounds for an employment tribunal claim, or if you are an employer defending a claim for employment tribunal compensation [or wanting legal advice or assistance on employment law matters in general], one of contact our specialist employment solicitors – initial phone advice is absolutely free – and we also run appropriate cases on no win no fee employment tribunal agreements.


Gender pay gap narrows for first time in 38 years

Recently released figures by the Chartered Management Institute in their 2011 Salary Survey revealed that female executives are earning as much as their male colleagues for the first time since their records began 38 years ago, however this is only £602 at junior executive level based on an average salary of £21,969. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) the gender pay gap has fallen below 10% for the first time ever after women’s earnings increased at a faster rate than men’s over the year. Despite calls for equality the 2011 National Management Salary Survey has revealed that men continue to be paid more on average than women for doing the same jobs (£42,441 compared to £31,895).

Some interesting statistics:

• There is still considerable disparity in pay between the public and the private sectors. The gender pay divide for full-timers fell from 9.9% to 9.2% in the public sector whilst in the private sector the gap narrowed from 19.7% to 18.4%

• If salaries continue to increase at current rates (2.1% for men and 2.4% for women) the average salary for female executives will not match that of their male colleagues until 2091

• The gap between earnings of men and women of all ages fell from 10.1% in April 2010 to 9.1% in April 2011

• Women’s wages rose by 1.9% over the year to April 9 compared with a rise of 0.8% for men

• According to the ONS the average gender pay gap for full-time workers in was 17% in 1997

• Public Sector wages grew by 0.3% to £556 a week whilst Private Sector earnings rose by 0.8% to £476

With the high rate of inflation and stagnant wages, the average worker is 3.5% worse off than they were this time last year, however wage-led growth is the only way to secure a sustainable economic recovery. As a result, the Chartered Management Institute is calling for the Government to scrutinise organisational pay, demand more transparency from companies on pay bandings and publicly expose organisations found guilty of fuelling the gender pay gap.

If you think that you are being paid less than those doing similar work for your employers, with the only apparent difference between you being your sex, you may have grounds for an employment tribunal claim for sex discrimination. For free initial phone legal advice about employment tribunal compensation, contact our specialist employment lawyers today on 01722 4223300. Remember, we run appropriate compensation claims under no win no fee employment tribunal agreements.

Employment tribunal fee consultation issued today

A consultation document in relation to fees for employment tribunal cases has today been issued by the MOJ [Ministry of Justice]. The consultation, which is due to close on March 6 next year, sets out 2 broad alternatives for employment tribunal fees;

  • The first alternative involves a variable fee – which would be set according to the type of employment tribunal claim. The first suggested level involves unpaid wages or unlawful deduction of wages claims, the second level would be for unfair dismissal compensation claims and the third level would cover whistle blowing and employment tribunal discrimination claims. The consultation invites comments on what they refer to as “indicative fees” – which range from between £150 and £250 for issuing a tribunal claim up to somewhere between £250 and £1,250 for a fully contested employment tribunal final hearing.
  • The second alternative involves a different fee level – but would be limited to any compensation claim in excess of £30K – and would only involve an issue fee, which could be set somewhere between £200 and £1,750. No further hearing fee would be involved.

The consultation paper also seeks views on many other issues including written judgements, discounts for multiple claims and the possible remission of fees for the low paid or unwaged.

ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures

Following the Dispute Resolution Review (DRR) the Government changed the way we deal with problems at work by repealing the widely criticised statutory disciplinary and grievance procedures. In 2009 they were superseded by the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures, issued under section 207 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992. To accompany the new Code, ACAS also produced a new non-statutory guide which provides information on handling discipline and grievance solutions in the workplace.

Disciplinary and grievance procedures are frameworks which provide clear and transparent structures for dealing with difficulties which may arise as part of the working relationship from either the employer’s or employee’s perspective.

They are necessary to ensure that everybody is treated in the same way in similar circumstances, to ensure issues are dealt with fairly and reasonably, and that employers are compliant with current legislation and follow the ACAS Code of Practice for handling disciplinary and grievance issues and are needed to:

• act as a point of reference for an employment tribunal should someone make a complaint about the way they have been dismissed

• enable employers and employees to agree suitable goals and timescales for improvement in an individual’s performance or conduct

• identify obstacles to individuals achieving the required standards (for example training needs, lack of clarity of job requirements, additional support needed) and to enable employers to take appropriate action

• let employees know what is expected of them in terms of standards of performance or conduct (and the likely consequences of continued failure to meet these standards)

• try to resolve matters without recourse to an employment tribunal claim

Grievance procedures are needed to:

• provide individuals with a course of action if they have a complaint (which they are unable to resolve through regular communication with their line manager)

• provide points of contact and timescales to resolve issues of concern

• try to resolve matters without recourse to an employment tribunal

Disciplinary and grievance procedures under the ACAS Code suggest parties should rather than must act in a certain way. A dismissal will no longer be found to have been an automatically unfair dismissal if the employer does not follow the procedure. However, Employment Tribunals ruling on individual cases can:

• Increase employment tribunal compensation by up to 25 per cent where the employer has ‘unreasonably’ failed to follow the ACAS Code for a disciplinary or a grievance

• Reduce compensation by up to 25 per cent where the employee has ‘unreasonably’ failed to follow the ACAS Code when carrying out employment disciplinary procedures or handling a grievance

if you’re an employer,don’t risk being caught out by getting the disciplinary and grievance procedure wrong – if you’re not sure what procedure you should follow contact our specialist employment tribunal solicitors on 0800 1404544 for free initial phone advice -it might be all you need to put your mind to rest.


Employment tribunal claims – big changes confirmed

The government has just confirmed details of two significant changes to the employment tribunals system – which is clearly aimed at reducing the number of employment tribunal claims being made.

The first change, as expected, is that with effect from April 1 next year, the qualification period for making an unfair dismissal claim will increase from one year to two.

The second announcement confirms the introduction of application fees for all employment tribunal compensation claims, which are likely to be as follows;

  • £250 form ET1 is initially launched
  • an additional fee of £1000 on listing of the final hearing
  • increased application fees if more than £30,000 compensation is being claimed
  • a refund of all application fees should the claim be successful
  • some form of fee waiver for those on benefits for low-income – though the details of this have not yet been confirmed

This could have a significant effect on the number of claims being made annually – in particular it will remain to be seen whether some employees are quite so keen to take their employment dispute to a tribunal given the size of the application fee – and what will happen to those employment tribunal solicitors running from claims under no win no fee schemes – will they be prepared to fund his sizeable application fees themselves ? Only time will tell.

Latest employment law reform proposals

The government had just issued proposals online of the changes to employment law – as part of an extended attempt to cut red tape, de-regulate business and reduce employment law threats to UK businesses. Oddly enough, they haven’t yet released this information in any form of press release.

With regard to employment law, the principal plans to limit dismissal claim rights are as follows;

  • The qualification period for unfair dismissal compensation increases from 12 months to 2 years
  • they propose introducing a new application fee for making an employment tribunal claim
  • they propose a consultation on amendments to current provisions of the 2010  Equality Act under which employers can be liable for any harassment of their employees by third parties – if they haven’t taken reasonable steps to stop the harassment

We will have to wait and see whether these proposals go through [and these plans were trumpeted by the government some months ago] – but if they do turn into legislation in due course, it is broadly good news for employers but less good for employees, whose employment rights will be reduced.

Employment tribunal claims – costs warning

In the past making an employment tribunal claim has been relatively risk free for the applicant – especially if they instruct the solicitor under a no win no fee employment tribunal agreement. Indeed, many of those people applying to the employment tribunal probably don’t realize that they could have costs orders awarded against them if they lose. Hidden in the small print of the employment tribunal regulations is a provision which permits tribunals to award legal costs – but this is usually restricted to a maximum of £10k. What’s more, tribunals only make such awards on very, very rare occasions. In the 2 years ending March 31, 2011, there were more than 450,000 compensation claims to tribunals. Over a very similar period, however, cost awards will be made in just 324 cases – and the average cost order limited to just £1k.

However, in a recent case where the applicant’s claim failed [and where the case was bluntly described by the tribunal itself as “a waste of time”], the employment tribunal went much further and awarded a staggering £100,000 in legal costs against the applicant. Tribunals are able, in exceptional circumstances, to exceed the £10k limit for cost awards in cases where the application is felt to be false or malicious i.e. it’s clear as crystal that the employee is trying it on and lying through their back teeth in attempt to wrestle some compensation from their former employer.

The advice of our employment tribunal solicitors? This case should never discourage any genuine applicant for employment tribunal compensation – it’s clearly not meant to do that, and there’s no indication that this is anything but a very exceptional case. But some people do make fraudulent claims – and it’s those people, who of course bring genuine claimants a bad name, who are vulnerable to really substantial costs orders and you need to think twice before making a fraudulent application.