Working Theory

by Michael Reed


I do employment law for the Free Representation Unit.


michael at


Quick thoughts on the new statistics

12 June 2014

The new tribunal statistics, going up to March 2014, have been released.

It will take a while to digest them, but I have a few immediate thoughts.

Headline: ET claims drop 59%

The headline figure is that single claims are down 59% in January to March 2014, compared with the same period in 2013. This is obviously a very dramatic fall.

It reflects my experience at FRU and what I hear from our referral agencies. CAB and other advice agencies are still getting the same sort of numbers of people seeking initial advice. But, when advised about fees, they decide that it’s not worth bringing a claim.

In fact, my experiences at FRU is that the amount of work we’re seeing has dropped by more than the tribunal statistics would suggest. We’ve seen a drop of about 75% in incoming employment referrals.

This makes sense. Many of the 41% of claimants remaining in the system are people who would never have come to FRU. For example, people who are rich enough to easily afford the fee; people with union backed claims or legal insurance.

Something rotten in the state of Denmark?

Once you get below the level of the claims lodged, into the jurisdiction of the claims, things start to look very odd. To the point that I’m concerned about the accuracy of the stats.

UPDATE: It appears that the MoJ released revised statistics in the early afternoon, which, at least on the jurisdictional information look less surprising.

The figures say that the tribunal received 1,421 claims for sexual orientation discrimination in Jan-Mar 2014. That’s an increase of 629% on the same period last year. If that’s true, about 20% of individual claims lodged in the last period appear to contain a sexual orientation discrimination claim (I’m not aware of any significant multiple cases of sexual orientation discrimination).

Part-time workers regulations claims have also spiked: up to 1,236 claims lodged in Jan-Mar 2014. That’s a jump of 521%. This might be a bit less worrying, in that there was a similar spike of about 1,000 claims in 2010/11. So it may just be that a few large multiple claims have been lodged somewhere. But it still seems odd in the face of fees.

At the same time, race discrimination claims have apparently collapsed. Only 37 have been recorded as being lodged in the last period. That’s a reduction of 97%. This doesn’t line up with other discrimination claims lodged. Age is down only 26%; disability down 46% and sex down 86%. I don’t know why race would be so disproportionately affected (or, for that matter, sex).

If the figures are right, something quite odd is going on and different jurisdictions, which you’d expect to be affected in a similar way by fees, are radically diverging.

The alternative is that the Ministry of Justice statistics have gone wrong. Which I find less than comforting. If a few of the jurisdictions’ figures have gone badly wrong, it seems likely that the other jurisdictions are also wrong, but just in a way that appears more plausible.

Updated to add: The statistics also claim that 50% of unfair dismissal claims are resolved inside 52 weeks; but yet go on to say that 75% are resolved within 48 weeks. That simply must be wrong.

What’s happening with Equal pay?

Equal pay has also apparently collapsed. It’s gone from 7,923 claims lodged in Q4 2012-13 to 91 lodged in Q4 2013-14 – a drop of 99%. Equal pay does contain a lot of multiple claims and I’ve certainly heard that they’re drying up. But this is still a surprising collapse.

I don’t know if it’s sufficiently surprising to be one of the implausible numbers. But, if it’s right and not a blip, it looks like tribunal litigation as a way of addressing unequal pay may be over.

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