The word from ARAG on the lengthy delays in the Employment Tribunal system, which seem little different from the general slow service across the public sector. It begs the question; why does it take more people to do the same tasks at a slower pace?
The fundamental problems in the employment tribunal system exposed during the pandemic have not been resolved, according to analysis of the latest tribunal figures released by His Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service, last week. While the headline ‘caseload outstanding’ figure was down from last year’s peak of 506,911 claims, this total includes multiple claims and can fluctuate when cases with many claimants are disposed of and received.
ARAG’s analysis of single claims, which offers a clearer picture of the backlog in the tribunal system, shows that the 44,758 single claims outstanding at the end of 2022 was the highest number on record, up 8% on the previous year, and almost double the total a decade ago. According to other data released last week, the total open caseload, including single claims and multiple claim cases, had risen to 50,291 by the end of January this year.
Commenting on the latest data, ARAG’s Underwriting Director, David Haynes said:
“Tribunal hearings were inevitably impacted by the pandemic, but the latest data points to much deeper issues. The number of single cases outstanding is the highest on record going back to 2008, roughly double what it was then, and 8% higher than it was this time last year. This isn’t a new problem. The overall number of claims outstanding can rise or fall with the receipt or disposal of one multiple claim, but the total number of cases received by HMCTS has outstripped the number disposed of, in every quarter but one since 2015.
The situation is as intolerable for businesses at it is for the employees waiting for their cases to be heard. We’re still seeing cases wait a year to reach even a preliminary hearing, leaving both parties in limbo. Over such a long time, costs increase, recollections fade and satisfactory outcomes can be jeopardised.”
Last month, in response to a question in Parliament, the Ministry of Justice published data showing that the average waiting time between receipt of an employment tribunal claim and the first hearing had risen from 30 weeks in 2011 to 49 weeks at the end of March 2021.