Multiple employment tribunal cases saw the largest increase, rising by 82 per cent over the last year. 

From October to December 2020, the number of employment tribunal cases sharply rose, following a well-documented trend of employment tribunal cases spiking in light of COVID-19.

Single employment tribunal claims rose by a quarter (25 per cent) to 13,200 in comparison to the same period the year before. However, it was multiple employment tribunal claims which saw the sharpest upsurge, rising by over 80 per cent. This amounted to 29,000 multiple claims being received during this quarter.

In addition, in both these instances, the caseloads outstanding also increased significantly. For single employment tribunal cases, the outstanding caseload rose by over a third (36 per cent) compared to the final quarter of 2019. The increase documented for multiple employment tribunal claims was significantly less at 12 per cent.

During this period, it was ‘Working time’ claims which became the most common, surpassing ‘Unfair dismissal’ which was the most frequent type of complaint during October – December 2019.

The report by the Ministry of Justice stated that tribunal cases had decreased in each jurisdiction apart from employment tribunals. This was attributed to the rise in unemployment and changes to working conditions brought about by COVID.

Due to the announcement by the Chancellor that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is set to be extended to Autumn, the report anticipated that the number of employment tribunal cases would fall over the coming months.

Chris Millward, Head of Claims at ARAG, a legal advice and protection provider, said:

An increase in employment tribunal claims was expected, given the high level of redundancies we saw towards the end of 2020, but it’s clear from weekly management information released yesterday that the tribunal system does not have the capacity to cope.

The steps government proposed to address the backlog last year, increasing use of virtual hearings and trying to deploy underutilised and non-specialist judges, clearly haven’t worked. There is no doubt that stronger action is urgently needed to bring the backlog under control.

We warned that the backlog was approaching 50,000 cases, back in September, but it has continued to grow steadily, ever since. The end to the furlough scheme is likely to bring another spike in redundancies and yet more tribunal claims, so it is hard to see the situation improving anytime soon.

The situation is intolerable for businesses facing a claim and for those employees who may have been unfairly treated, as it is clear many will have to wait significant periods of time, potentially years, before getting any sort of resolution to their dispute.