Working Theory

by Michael Reed


I do employment law for the Free Representation Unit.


michael at


Are they still vexed?

12 September 2014

Some people apparently think that, before fees, there were many vexatious cases and the 70% reduction in single claims can largely be explained by the fact that weak cases are no longer being brought.

This should be easy to check. If there was a significant change in the strength of claims coming before the tribunals, we’d expect to see a change in the outcomes at tribunal.

The only problem is that it takes time for cases to work through the system. Not all of the cases being decided at the moment post date fees.

However, in unfair dismissal, 50 % of claims are resolved within 38 weeks. So most of the cases being resolved in the April-June period should be post-fees. If we’d really eliminated a substantial chunk of weak claims following the introduction of fees in July 2013, the results should show up in the latest figures

In 2011/12 – when no claims involved paying a fee – unfair dismissal outcomes were:

Compare these figures to April-June 2014 – coming up to a year after fees were introduced:

Much the same proportion of cases are winning and slightly fewer are losing. The largest changes are in relation to Acas settlements, which are dropping, and withdrawals, which are rising. But it’s hard to decode those statistics, since many withdrawals come about through settlements. In any case, they’re hardly dramatic shifts, compared with the precipitate drop in claims.

My own view, partly based on these stats and partly on my own anecdotal experience, is that there has been no change in proportion of strong vs weak claims in the tribunal. Which means fees have held back many people with good claims from enforcing their rights.

  1. Including default judgments. 

  2. Including strike-outs at a preliminary hearing or on paper. 

  3. Often, but not always, withdrawals indicate a non-Acas settlement. 

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