Employment Tribunal Q&A’s

Employment Tribunal Q&A’s

This article centres on Employment Tribunals in the UK, covering their definition, recent claims, and outcome statistics, as well as typical awards. Additionally, it includes an illustration of a recent case and offers some best practice guidelines.

What is an Employment Tribunal?

An Employment Law Tribunal, also known as an Employment Tribunal, is a judicial body in the UK that hears and adjudicates disputes between employers and employees. It is an independent body that operates outside of the traditional court system and is responsible for enforcing employment laws and resolving disputes related to employment.

The tribunal has the power to hear cases related to a wide range of employment issues, including unfair dismissal, discrimination, breach of contract, and wage disputes. It is composed of a panel of three members: a legally qualified judge, who presides over the proceedings, and two lay members, who have experience in the field of employment.

Employment tribunals are designed to provide an accessible, informal, and cost-effective means of resolving disputes between employers and employees. They are generally less formal than traditional court proceedings, and parties can often represent themselves, although they may also choose to be represented by a lawyer.

The decisions made by the employment tribunal are legally binding, and there is a right of appeal to a higher court in certain circumstances.

How many ET claims are estimated to be settled before tribunal?

53% of claims are withdrawn by the claimant.

In most of these cases, this is because the claimant and the respondent have agreed an ‘out-of-court’ settlement. 20% of claims are settled via The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, commonly known as ACAS.

How many claims were processed last year?

In Q2 2022/23, there were 18,000 Employment Tribunal (ET) receipts, 44% (7,800) of which were single claims receipts, and the remaining 56% (10,000) were multiple claims receipts. The ET disposed of 13,000 cases in Q2 2022/23, an increase of 6% compared to Q2 2021/22.

In Q3 2022/23, there were 23,000 Employment Tribunals (ET) receipts, 33% (7,600) of which were single claims receipts, and the remaining 67% (15,000) were multiple claims receipts. The ET disposed of 17,000 cases in Q3 2022/23. At the end of December 2022, 475,000 cases were outstanding.

What is the waiting time to First Hearing?

Since fees were abolished, the average waiting time has increased year on year, and, when the last data was analysed in December 2021, it had reached 49 weeks. This means that the average waiting time to a first hearing now stands at nearly a year, and we must remember this is only for the first hearing.

What is the highest employment tribunal payout in the UK?

Annual award statistics for 2021/2022 show that there were 200 discrimination cases in which compensation was awarded in 2021/2022. The maximum award was £228,117 for a race discrimination case. The second highest discrimination award was for a similar amount – £225,893 – in a disability discrimination case.

What was the average ET award last year?

Most recent quarterly statistics reveal that the average award in 2021/22 was £13,541 (compared to an average award of £12,080 in 2020/21).

Case Law: Unfair dismissal of an Employee on Long-term Sickness

In the case of Drury v Ministry of Defence [2023], an employee who was on sick leave due to depression was unfairly dismissed for taking unauthorised time off. The case was complex as it required the employer to handle long-term sickness absence, even though the employee was unwilling or unable to engage with internal processes.

The tribunal determined that since the employer was informed that the employee had been acting out of character and struggling with mental health difficulties, which affected the employee’s ability to communicate effectively, the dismissal was unjustified.

Guidelines to Follow When an Employee is Absent Due to Health Issues

  1. Avoid immediately dismissing an employee who is absent due to health problems. Although each case is unique, employers should generally offer the employee multiple chances to communicate and determine whether their health is affecting their behaviour.
  2. If an employee is having difficulty with mental health problems, it is essential to assess whether it is affecting their communication skills.
  3. Always obtain a medical opinion, either by referring the employee to occupational health or by seeking written authorisation to contact their doctor.

For help and support for your HR policies and procedures, or for guidance relating to an Employment Tribunal, contact Kirsty Craig Associates today. 

KCA offer a HR support programme; My People Partner, take a look here for more information https://kirstycraigassociates.co.uk/retained-monthly-hr-support-my-people-partner/

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