Last reviewed 14 October 2020
With the Ministry of Justice releasing the statistics for April-June 2020, we can take a look at employment tribunal numbers for this quarter alongside the largest amounts awarded from successful claims within financial year 2019/20.
In the 12 months from April 2019 to March 2020, the highest sum awarded in an employment tribunal claim was £266,000 for a disability discrimination claim.
The maximum award for a single unfair dismissal claim was £118,842, down from nearly £950,000 in 2018/19.
Just under 104,000 total claims were accepted by the tribunal, which is slightly less than over 121,000 seen the previous year.
That said, tribunal claims have started to increase significantly in the first quarter of 2020/21, with single claims up a substantial 18% on the same quarter in 2019. This is “most likely” due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In this quarter, the type of claims which have increased the most from the same time last year include age and race discrimination and failure to provide the National Minimum Wage.
Between April 2019 and March 2020
Unfair dismissal average awards was £10,812, a 24% decrease from the previous year.
160 discrimination cases were awarded compensation.
Age discrimination claims received the largest average award of £39,000, up 48% on last year.
The maximum costs award was £104,000, which is 69% down on last year but still substantially larger than the costs in 2017/18.
Compared to January–March 2020
Failure to consult on TUPE — 103% increase
Failure to provide NMW — 46% increase
Age discrimination — 9% increase
Unfair dismissal — 3% decrease
Race discrimination — 16% decrease
In the three-month period of April–June 2020:
Unfair dismissal — over 5100 claims were made
Unauthorised deduction from wages — nearly 4000 claims were made
Breach of contract — over 3600 claims were made
Working time — over 3200 claims were made
Redundancy pay — over 1500 claims were made
Sex discrimination — over 1200 claims were made
Monthly breakdown for 2020
January — 3799 single claims
February — 3480 single claims
March — 3838 single claims
April — 3783 single claims
May — 3378 single claims
June — 3873 single claims
Of the claims dealt with in this quarter (April–June)
19% of claims were dismissed upon withdrawal
23% were settled through Acas conciliated settlements
9% were struck out
8% were default judgments
What this means
This latest set of statistics are a helpful look at claims in the 12-month period leading up to the Covid-19 pandemic, alongside trends that we are starting to see as businesses started to respond to lockdown restrictions in April onwards.
As usual, 2019/20 saw a large number of claims submitted to the employment tribunal, which while down on last year is still a reflection on the removal of tribunal fees, repayment of which is continuing to slow down as of June 2020. Crucially, these figures once again show the dangers of successful unfair dismissal claims. While the maximum award for 2019/20 was considerably less than what we saw in the previous year, £900,000, it again sends a clear message that the statutory cap for unfair dismissal does not count in certain circumstances.
Head into the first quarter of the 2020/21 year and already the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic begins to show itself in tribunal statistics. It is not surprising that unfair dismissal claims are now the most common claim disposed of, something likely attributed to companies acting in ways they would not usually do as they struggled to respond to the pandemic. With the tribunal service already under significant strain before the pandemic, we are now seeing a significant amount of outstanding caseloads, something that is likely only to continue to grow as we head into the second and third quarters.
Once again, we are seeing a substantial number of discrimination claims being brought, showing that employers are still failing to completely follow the legal obligations placed upon them in this area. This will only have been furthered by responses to the pandemic and it is essential that employers are reminded of the dangers of discrimination.
It is also interesting to see such an increase in the failure to consult during a TUPE transfer. Employers need to be aware of their legal obligation to do this, and the potential consequences for not doing so.
What can employers do?
As said above, the coronavirus pandemic continues to be a present concern for employers and they must make sure they are legally compliant in their response to it. It is important to remember that employment law is not suspended due to the pandemic; now more than ever, they need to get these key procedures right and avoid the risk of being taken to a tribunal. Crucially, all decisions to dismiss an employee must follow a fair process and are reasonable.
Taking advice to settle a claim, whether through a settlement agreement or at the Early Conciliation stage, can reduce the financial risk of facing a tribunal and prevents the reputational risk of a tribunal judgment being published online.
As stated before, companies should also maintain an equality and diversity policy that outlines the steps the company will take to combat discrimination arising in the workplace. Specifically, employers need to be aware of the legal obligation placed upon them to make reasonable adjustments to assist disabled employees.
Despite recent rumours, there is still no confirmation from the Government that tribunal fees will return. If and how this would work does remain to be seen; due to the nature of their abolition, a new procedure for submitting fees is extremely unlikely to follow the same processes as before.