ACAS Annual Report: Employment tribunal claims on the rise

ACAS Annual Report: Employment tribunal claims on the rise

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) has published its annual report for 2017-2018, and it makes for interesting reading.

This is the first report published since the Supreme Court ruling in July 2017 that employment tribunal fees were unlawful.

It was widely predicted that following that landmark decision, employment claims would rise again. After all, if the introduction of fees meant a 70% reduction in claims, surely abolishing the fees would see a return to the previous volumes?

This rising trend seems to be verified by the recent statistics published by ACAS.

Under current rules, anyone wanting to make an employment tribunal claim must first notify ACAS. A mandatory “early conciliation period” then ensues, during which the parties can (if they chose to take part) try to resolve the dispute without taking further action. If resolution is not possible, the claimant can continue to issue a claim in the Tribunal.

What does the report tell us?

The figures show that in the 2017- 2018 period:

  • Early conciliation notifications increased from 92,251 in 2016 – 2017, to 109,634 
  • This represents an increase in any given week of nearly 30% (from 1,700 to 2,200 weekly notifications)
  • Tribunal claims received for conciliation increased from 18,647 in 2016-2017 to 26,012 (although most of these had gone through the early conciliation process first)
  • Just under 783,000 calls were answered by the ACAS helpline, with the most frequent claims being discipline, dismissal and grievances, national minimum wage and contract disputes.
  • Nearly 500,000 used the ACAS online helpline.

What does this mean?

Employment tribunal claims are clearly rising. Unfair dismissal claims remain high but interestingly, there has been a rise in wage claims and contract disputes, which do not require an individual to have two years’ continuous service. This reinforces that length of service is not always a bar to tribunal proceedings, as such claims, along with discrimination and whistleblowing claims, can be brought without meeting this service requirement.

Are more cases being settled?

The statistics on settlement are interesting too.  

34% of notifications were resolved before a claim was issued in the tribunal, and 58% of tribunal cases went on to be settled. A further 16% of claims were withdrawn, indicating that nearly three quarters of the cases notified to ACAS did not end up in a tribunal hearing.

Could this be an increased willingness by employers to settle claims commercially before they get to a final hearing and avoid the time, cost and potentially reputational risk if an adverse finding is made? Or perhaps it indicates a nervousness from claimants, who in light of the increase in claims and subsequent backlog in the system, are not seeing claims listed until a year away. The prospect of not seeing redress for such a length period, may make settlement a more attractive option. 

Facing a claim shouldn’t mean your company or reputation has to suffer. Our project management approach to handling employment tribunals alleviates the pressure for employers, allowing you to hand over the management of the process so you can focus on your most important asset; your business. With a 95% success rate in successfully defending employment tribunal claims over the past three years, we are able to assist you from the first approach to ACAS, to preparing for a final hearing.