Since the Supreme Court’s quashing of the Employment Tribunal Fees Order in July 2017, there has been a steady rise in claims and corresponding waiting times. A recent report has found that the average waiting time between a claim being lodged and a hearing taking place is now nearly eight months. It is believed a lack of funding is the cause of such delays. The Bar Council reports that between 2010 and 2018 expenditure on courts and tribunals fell by 6% from £1.96 billion to £1.84 billion – a 17% decline in real terms.
It cannot be overstated that legal proceedings are a challenging situation at the very best of times, add to the mix a prolonged delay and the result is uncertainty for both claimant and respondent. A claimant could be left feeling that their complaint is not being dealt. The respondent could suffer loss of productivity with management time being unnecessarily diverted by agonising over claims that will not be heard for sometime.
In 2018 the Judicial Appointments Committee announced it would recruit 54 new judges to tackle the rise in employment claims. The above figures would suggest that their appointment can’t come quick enough. However, to date, only a handful have been recruited.
However, one positive by-product of the delays is that the parties are afforded more time to reflect upon the strength of their respective cases after the initial wave of emotion has subsided creating opportunities for settlement which might not otherwise arise where the parties are focused on preparation for an impending trial.
Will the positive by-product discussed above survive the appointment of additional Employment Judges? A question that can only be answered if waiting times are, in fact, reduced when the recruitment of additional Employment Judges is completed.
This blog was written by: Michael Dobson
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