The UK Ministry of Justice has now published statistics for its Tribunals system for 1 April 2011 to the end of March this year  The Report deals with the Immigration and Social Security Tribunal as one might expect, but also some little-known crackers like the Estate Agent Appeals Tribunal (does this mean some estate agents are appealing?), the Gangmasters Licensing Appeals Tribunal, the War Pensions and the Armed Forces Compensation Chamber.

The Employment Tribunal Service is also covered in detail.  It received 186,300 applicstions in 2011/12, down by a full 15% from the previous year.  Much the biggest proportion of that drop was in multiple claims (2% only for individuals), hopefully leading to the conclusion that the majority of the public sector equal pay claims possible have now already been brought.

However, within that 186,300 number, there were 321,800 “jurisdictional claims” (an employee claiming unfair dismissal, discrimination and unlawful deductions is bringing three jurisdictional claims, even though they may all be included within one Tribunal application).  Of those jurisdictional claims, slightly under a third were for unfair dismissal, breach of contract or a statutory redundancy payment.  16% related to unlawful deductions and a whopping 29% were brought under the Working Time Regulations.  This looks anomalous until it is realised that the great bulk of these airline cases which are resubmitted every three months.  The bulk of the remaining 24% are likely to be discrimination and whistle-blowing issues.

Although 321,800 new jurisdictional claims were brought in 2011/12, these reports suggest rather worryingly that only 230,000 were disposed in the same period.  Of these, a third were settled through ACAS intervention.  Just over a quarter were abandoned by the Claimant or settled other than via ACAS.  12% succeeded in Tribunal and 28% failed.  In other words, less than 1 in 3 jurisdictional claims going to an Employment Tribunal and scarcely 1 in 8 of those brought are actually upheld.

The most disturbing part of the Report is in relation to disposal times for jurisdictional claims.  Progress is measured by assessing the time after submission of the ET1 claim form by which 25%, 50% and 75% of those claims have been disposed of.  If you bring a relatively simple claim, e.g. working time, unfair dismissal or unlawful deductions, you have a 25% chance of your case being heard within three to four months.  You have a 50% chance of getting rid of it within six months and a year after they are lodged.  However, more complex claims can take longer – only 25% of equal pay claimants could expect to see their case heard within one to two years of starting it and a very disappointed 1 in 4 will still be waiting for a hearing after 4 or 5 years.  Race and sex discrimination claimants stand a 1 in 4 chance of not getting a hearing for 3 or 4 years, although half should have been dealt with within 2 years, and a quarter within 6 months.

The equal pay delays are explicable in part by the number of interim procedural steps and hearings which can be required in such cases.  However, there seems no logical reason for the wide discrepancy in disposal times for discrimination cases – 75% of race or sex cases will have been dealt with after 3 or 4 years, but the same proportion of disability claims dealt with is reached in 1 year, and of age, religious belief and sexual orientation claims within “only” 2 years.