Employment tribunal claimants are waiting 18 months before their case is being heard due to backlog, lawyers warn


Employment tribunal claimants are waiting 18 months for their cases to be heard because of a backlog, lawyers have warned.

The tribunals are taking an average of eight months to be heard, with some not being listed until 2021, new research suggests.

Waiting times have increased for four years in a row, with pressure increasing since fees for taking a case to a tribunal were abolished in 2017, said employment law firm GQ Littler.

The abolition of fees led to a sharp rise in claims at a time when tribunals were already having to cope with restricted government funding, said the company.

Its research indicated that the average waiting time between employment tribunals receiving a claim and when it is heard reached 237 days this year, up from 207 days last year.

The number of claims received by employment tribunals has risen by more than a quarter over the last year to 35,430, said the report.

GQ Littler said restricted funding means the tribunals service is finding it difficult to employ enough front-line judicial and support staff to deal with the caseload, leading to growing delays.

The increase in waiting times is leaving employers facing uncertainty for months over the outcome of a claim, while workers are frustrated by the delay in dealing with their complaints, said the law firm.

Raoul Parekh, partner at GQ Littler, said: “Many businesses facing an employment claim feel like they are operating under a cloud until that claim is dealt with. That’s why it’s important to get these claims dealt with quickly, but at current trend employment tribunals will soon reach breaking point.

“Eight-month delays are just not sustainable and can be very challenging for both parties involved. On this kind of timeline, it is not uncommon for key witnesses to leave, move to other roles or countries, and memories can also fade.

“A severe lack of resources means delays are endemic across the whole tribunals system – even when calling the employment tribunals inquiries helpline, you can be waiting for hours.

“If no material increase in funding arises then authorities may need to look at more creative solutions. Options put forward include introducing a new step in the tribunals process which gives both parties a chance to settle before a case is heard in court.”

A Courts & Tribunals Service spokesman said: “We are making every effort to refund these fees and have written directly to everybody we think is eligible – some 43,000 people. More than half of the money owed has already been paid out, and we’re working closely with stakeholders to get the message out even further.”


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