Claimants waiting for employment tribunal dates are experiencing average waiting times of 8 months – some are taking up to 18 months. The backlog has increased over the past few years, with the abolishment of fees in 2017 and restrictions on government funding contributing to the delay.
The restriction on government funding has reportedly led to a difficulty in employing front-line judicial and support staff to help with the backlog. It is reported that government expenditure has fallen by 6% between 2010 and 2018.
Tribunals are not the only ones facing increased demand. ACAS have also reported a rise of 21% in the demand for early conciliation services (the mandatory process all claimants have to go through prior to submitting a claim to an employment tribunal).
The increase in waiting times is leaving both claimants and employers in uncertainty for long periods of time. It is also causing increased legal costs, disruption in the workplace and distress for the claimants.
The delay is also creating practical issues, such as relevant witnesses being unable to attend due to changes in circumstances and the reliability of witness accounts diminishing because of the time between events and providing testimonials.
In an attempt to tackle the backlog, an initiative to recruit more full-time judges has been put forward with 27 already appointed. Other solutions include the possibility of introducing a new practice of facilitating settlements prior to a case being heard in court.
With waiting times so long, it is important for businesses to make sure they have the necessary HR practices in place to try to avoid employment tribunals altogether. Where this isn’t possible, it is important that any necessary witness statements or documents are collected at the earliest opportunity to increase their credibility and ease of access. This may be difficult if left until later.
ACAS have noted an increase in the use of settlements prior to reaching an employment tribunal. However, employers should always obtain specialist legal advice and assistance to draft and process any required settlement agreements, to ensure their validity.
Have any questions?
If you need advice, you can get in touch with our Employment Law team today on 02920 853794 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.