Multiple case numbers soar at employment tribunals

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Figures released today show a sharp rise in multiple cases brought to employment tribunals coupled with an increase in disputes centred on working time and age discrimination.

In October to December 2020, single claims increased by 25% compared with the same period in 2019, but there was an 82% rise in multiple cases with 29,000 claims being received.

According to the Ministry of Justice this was the result of high numbers of claims against single employers, with 1,000 multiple claim cases, up from 630 for the equivalent period in 2019. In addition there were 27 claims per multiple case in 2020 as opposed to 12 claims per multiple case in the equivalent previous period.

The rising number of employment tribunal cases was the result of the increase in unemployment and altered working conditions brought on by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the MoJ said. It projected that an even steeper rise in cases would occur when furlough ended in September.

Employment tribunals concluded 14,000 claims during October to December 2020, a 24% increase on the same period in 2019. This was due to a 66% increase in multiple claim disposals (to 6,700).

The figures also showed that working time claims replaced unfair dismissal as the most common claim.

Laura Farnsworth, partner at Lewis Silkin, said the sharp rise in multiple cases “may be accounted for by the fact that many employers have been making changes to workers’ terms and conditions and conducting large-scale redundancy exercises”.

She said there was an unknown element to the figures that obstructed accurate analysis: “We don’t have an accurate picture of the types of claims which have increased the most because a high number of claims have yet to be reviewed and allocated to a claim type. In the meantime, they are coded ‘other’.

“However, the statistics do show a significant increase in claims of age discrimination. This may suggest two scenarios – either employers are targeting older workers when selecting for redundancy or, more likely, that claims are coming from younger workers who appear to have been most affected by Covid-related redundancies or furlough.

Farnsworth added: “There is an increase in outstanding claims due to the backlog caused by Covid restrictions; this may also be because more claimants are willing to proceed further with claims, including issuing data subject access requests, because of difficulty in finding new employment.”

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