ACAS is a public body which provides a free and impartial information and advice to both employers and employees on all aspects of workplace issues and employment disputes.
Before bringing an employment dispute to the tribunal, every would-be claimant must first notify ACAS, who will then attempt to act as mediator so the dispute can be resolved informally before reaching the stage where the claimant submits a tribunal claim.
ACAS have recently published their latest statistics (covering April 2017 to December 2017). Between April 2017 and July 2017, they received around 1,700 notifications per week. Since the scrapping of the ET fees (in July 2017), notifications have surged to 2,200 per week. This is an increase of around 30%.
Why has there been an increase? Looking at how the statistics have risen sharply since the scrapping of ET fees, shows that clearly the abolition of fees is the dominant factor. However, looking a little deeper brings to the surface some interesting questions that might be answered with time. These are:
- When the fees were in place, did employers tend to rely on the apparent safety net of fees pricing out employees access to justice, as an alternative to complying with employment laws?
- Are disgruntled employees taking advantage of the ‘free shot’ at taking their employers to ET, simply to try and induce a settlement?
- Are employees educating themselves better now they know there is no financial barrier to justice? And is this education persuading employees to bring more claims?
Claims that have progressed through the ACAS notification stage to the tribunal have increased by 57% when compared to the same period in 2016. This isn’t surprising, as in 2016 employees and former employees would have had to pay tribunal fees to proceed with an employment dispute. As this is no longer the case, the removal of this barrier simply means they have less to lose by bringing a claim.
The sharp rise in ET claims shows that employers must ensure they comply strictly with employment law, because if not employees have generally got nothing to lose by taking their employment disputes to the tribunal.