A headline in The Times last week caught my eye. “Tribunals gridlocked by surge in claims” it shouted at me, as I perused the paper over lunch.
Yes, we might be experiencing some delays in the tribunal service currently, but certainly here in South Yorkshire, to call them “gridlocked” would be a little overdramatic.
So what is causing the delays?
The problems are rooted in the Supreme Court’s decision to abolish fees for employment tribunals last year. Whilst this was great news for claimants, the rapid increase in cases was not fully anticipated.
When fees were introduced in 2013, the average drop in claims across the UK was 65%. The resulting empty courtrooms meant staffing and judicial resources were managed downwards, in some cases through natural wastage, in response to this reduced demand.
The challenge now is for the tribunal service to react quickly and efficiently to its growing workload, whilst still processing current cases. Simply put, additional staff are required as soon as possible, although I suspect budget and target restrictions imposed previously may be restrictive.
Increasingly, we are moving towards a situation where future claims will be handled electronically and the tribunal service may also have to consider what impact this ongoing strain on resources will have on its ability to embrace new technology and process these changes efficiently.
How can T&E help?
Employment solicitors, like me, see the negative impact tribunal delays have on clients and we are doing all we can to manage expectations, by limiting legal costs and alleviating the frustrations caused by having to wait six months or more to have your say.
At the outset, or in the early stages of a case, we can also explore the benefits and likelihood of seeking resolution before employment disputes reach a tribunal. If this can be achieved, there are obvious advantages for both sides in terms of avoiding lengthy, costly and stressful proceedings.
For an early discussion about your options, the practicalities of settling employment disputes, or to discuss a potential claim in more detail, don’t hesitate to contact me on (0114) 218 4000, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow us on Twitter, @tayloremmet.