Large increases in the number of individual employment tribunal (ET) cases were reported by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) earlier this month. According to the ministry’s statistics, which were released on 8 March (Tribunals and gender recognition statistics quarterly, October to December 2017
), the number of single claims between October and December 2017 increased to 8,173, a rise of 90 per cent compared with the same quarter in the previous year.
The MoJ’s statisticians believe that the recent increases are ‘most likely due to the abolition of employment tribunal fees on 26 July 2017’ (page 7). In the preceding quarter (July to September 2017), 7,042 single claims were received (see February 2018 Legal Action
5). The average number of single claims had been running at around 4,200 per quarter since the introduction of the fees.
After the imposition of the fees, former employees in unfair dismissal and discrimination cases were paying £1,200 if their case went to a hearing. The removal of the charges was forced on the government after the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Unison (R (Unison) v Lord Chancellor  UKSC 51
Most employment law specialists to whom Legal Action has spoken agree that the number of single cases is a good indicator of overall trends in new claims being lodged, as the figures are not distorted by group claims of multiple cases involving many applicants joined to the same case with similar facts and legal issues.
However, Chris Benson, a partner at the firm Leigh Day, believes many of the new cases brought since the Unison judgment are due to an appeal that the supermarket giant Asda has launched in a long-running equal value claim involving around 20,000 employees. Leigh Day is representing many of the employees who are members of a trade union.
‘Asda are arguing that a group claim against them should be struck out as it was brought on one form and so breached ET rules,’ said Benson. While he argued that Asda’s claim is without merit, ’in the interim, to protect our clients’ position, we reissued claims for all the claimants that had been on group claim forms on individual claim forms’.
‘A major concern for LAG is that due to legal aid and other cuts, there are fewer avenues for the public to get advice on employment law,’ said the organisation’s director, Steve Hynes. He believes ‘another consequence of the Unison judgment is therefore likely to be a surge of unrepresented applicants before the ETs’.